National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Honors in Practice, 2022, Vol. 18: 9–27


© Copyright 2022 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


This study explores the experience of high-achieving students of color in an honors program at a large research university. Qualitative methods involve surveying students (n = 39) and interviewing a select group (n = 5) in attempts to measure both the frequency and severity of racial microaggression as well as subjective experience relating to diversity and representation in honors. Using critical race theory, a discourse analysis of four broad questions pertaining to pre-entry, entry, continuation, and exit of honors programs suggests that more is needed to foster an honors community that better understands and meets the needs of students’ racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. While several students report nearly withdrawing from honors, citing feelings of racial tokenization, alienation from peers, and impostor phenomenon, the author notes how results elucidate a pressing need for university honors programs to recruit more students from underrepresented backgrounds and provide targeted resources to support honors students and the programs to which they belong.