College Belonging: A Conversation with Lisa M. Nunn


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Welcome to The Academic Life. You are smart and capable, but you aren’t an island, and neither are we. So we reached across our mentor network to bring you podcasts on everything from how to finish that project, to how to take care of your beautiful mind. Wish we’d bring in an expert about something? Email us at or Find us on Twitter: The Academic Life @AcademicLifeNBN.

In this episode you’ll hear about: the three realms of college belonging, why “finding your place” is bad advice for first-gen students, how financial aid packages affect students’ experiences of belonging, “nice” and “not-so-nice” diversity, and the hypocrisy of white niceness on college campuses.

Our guest is: Lisa M. Nunn, Ph.D., author of College Belonging: How First-Year and First-Generation Students Navigate Campus Life and Professor of Sociology at the University of San Diego. She is the Director of her campus' Center for Educational Excellence. She is also the author of 33 Simple Strategies for Faculty: A Week-by-Week Resource for Teaching First-Year and First-Generation Students as well as a book on high school students, Defining Student Success: The Role of School and Culture. She didn't grow up knowing that she would become a sociologist and she graduated college as a literature and theater major, still not knowing that she would become a sociologist. It was during her years with the Peace Corps in Limbaži, Latvia in her early twenties when she started to recognize how fascinating cultural ideas and social structures are. How they shape who we are, who we want to become, and how they also constrain the paths available to us to get there. She hasn't stopped thinking about or talking about these dynamics since.

Your host is: Dr. Dana Malone, a higher education scholar and practitioner. She specializes in college student relationships, gender, sexuality, and religious identities as well as assessment planning. Dana enjoys engaging conversations, delicious food, practicing yoga, and wandering the Jersey shore.

Listeners to this episode might be interested in:

  • 33 Simple Strategies for Faculty: A Week-by-Week Resource for Teaching First-Year and First-Generation Students by Lisa M. Nunn
  • Defining Student Success: The Role of School and Culture by Lisa Nunn
  • The Cost of Inclusion: How Student Conformity Leads to Inequality on College Campuses by Blake R. Silver
  • The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students by Anthony Abraham Jack

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