The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 45, No. 2 - 37

Cultivation of Support Networks by Students of Color

were uninformed about social justice issues,
this student made decisions about where to
invest time and energy. Ultimately, when situations arose, she took the initiative to decide
between cultivating social capital (via educating roommates) or attending to her individual
needs and postponing social justice dialogue.
[I was] constantly finding a balance between
educating [White suitemates] on things they
didn't know and just ignoring what was
happening. . . . If there are ever issues on
campus that I would know about because
they're diversity issues, [my suitemates]
would have no clue.
This participant utilized education as a tool
when discussing issues of race with her suitemates. Additionally, there were times when
she made a conscious decision about whether
to engage with White suitemates or to utilize
space with other friends (often other Students
of Color) when discussing racial topics on and
beyond campus. As a result, she was choosing
whether to educate and cultivate social capital
with suitemates by "bringing them up to speed
and trying to have a conversation" or to cultivate social capital by discussing the issues with
other friends instead.

Custodial Staff
A powerful theme emerged regarding the role
of custodians in residential communities. Students of Color shared that they connected with
custodians on a personal level to cultivate social
capital. Participants talked about custodians
sharing their experiences, showing care, and
working to maintain the environment, and they
appreciated when custodians shared information about their lives outside of work. As one

student said, "Whenever I come across [my custodian], he's always talking to me or somebody
else. He's always just engaging with us, telling
about his daughter and what she did in school
and what he did, and it's pretty interesting."
The exchanges built trust and promoted the
student's self-efficacy as he actively engaged
with the staff member. This increased the student's sense of safety and belonging (social
capital), making the custodian a key individual
in the student's network of support.
This connection was built not only on conversation, but also on the role of custodians as
individuals attending to the lives and routines
of students. As one woman shared, "I always
leave my keys inside the bathroom because I
forget them, and [the custodian] knows that.
So if I go back-she's already waiting with
my keys." These examples provided insight
into the human connections Students of Color
valued and cultivated.
Custodians' work was also valued. One
participant expressed appreciation for the
labor his custodian did: "Something that
helps me be successful here is the custodian in my dorm. He keeps the place clean
. . . I just wanted to recognize [the custodian
is] what ha[s] kind of helped me to continue
doing what I have to." Building a relationship
with the person who kept them safe in their
living environments was essential to many
participants.

DISCUSSION: THE ROLE OF
KEY INDIVIDUALS
Participants in this study discussed how they
connected with key individuals to build networks of support. This aligned with O'Brien

V O L U M E 4 5 , N O. 2 * 2 0 1 9

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The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 45, No. 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 45, No. 2

Contents
The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 45, No. 2 - Intro
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