Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2 - 49

Using Inclusion Assistants

Students of color, transgender students, students with
disabilities, and other underrepresented students face greater
challenges to thriving and completing college than do students
with majority identities.
	
To better support these students (and
specifically students of color) in the residence
halls, the institution that is the site of this
study created a multicultural advisor program
30 years ago. Residence life staff reimagined
the program in 2017-18 as a result of data
from focus groups and student staff surveys
indicating the need to better support students
of color (the primary focus of the multicultural advisor program) in addition to other
students with underrepresented identities
such as LGBTQ students and students with
disabilities. This redesign follows a national
trend of creating or retooling positions within
residence halls in order to better respond to
increasing diversity among college students;
while older models relied on resident assistants (RAs) to be responsible for issues of inclusion and discrimination, researchers like
Blimling and Baumann (2019) have noted
that RAs are increasingly taxed to respond to
the myriad issues that residential living presents-including those related to inclusion
and social justice-and require additional
support in order to be effective.
	
The multicultural advisor program
evolved into the inclusion assistant program
and is now part of a larger residential curriculum at the institution, which " reflects the
intentionality, structure, and sequencing that
is applied in the design of academic majors
and individual courses to college experiences beyond the classroom " (Kerr et al., 2017,
p. 22). In the redesign, inclusion assistants
work alongside traditional resident assistants
(i.e., peer leaders with paraprofessional roles
in residence life) and other paraprofessional
staff to specifically focus on the support and

46

The Journal of College and University Student Housing

engagement of students with underrepresented identities in the residence halls. (More
information about the redesign can be found
in Figure 1.) This study sought to understand
how the redesigned inclusion assistant program fostered student success among students with underrepresented identities at a
public rural PWI in the Midwest and to identify any shortcomings of the program.

PERSISTENCE IN HIGHER
EDUCATION OF STUDENTS WITH
UNDERREPRESENTED IDENTITIES
Students of color (Museus et al., 2020;
Reynolds et al., 2010), transgender students
(Nicolazzo, 2017), students with disabilities
(Abes & Wallace, 2018), and other underrepresented students face greater challenges
to thriving and completing college than do
students with majority identities. Several
environmental factors can negatively influence the experiences of underrepresented
students: being the only or one of few students to hold a particular underrepresented
identity in campus micro and macroenvironments, stereotypes and stereotype threat,
lack of representation in faculty and staff,
bias incidents, and curricular content that
privileges majority (e.g., European, heteronormative) identities (Nicolazzo, 2017;
Quaye et al., 2020; Reynolds et al., 2010).
These factors contribute to lower rates of engagement in the campus environment, lower
persistence and graduation rates, and more
negative views of campus climate (Johnson
et al., 2014; Schreiner & Nelson, 2013).
	
Researchers have identified other factors that contribute to college success out-



Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2

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