Date of this Version
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 2020, 21(2):67–93
Honors education values diversity, not simply to enrich our classrooms but for equity and social justice. At Columbus State University, students of color were underrepresented in honors education, and we sought to determine if institutional structures hindered them from being able to access educational programming that was commensurate with their ability. We used focus group interviews with students of color who were academically eligible to enroll in honors education yet never participated. We combined focus group interviews with an analysis of our recruiting practices. Using a theoretical framework based on intersectionality and possible selves theory, we found that our participants valued diverse learning environments, balance, and co-curricular engagement that supported their professional, hoped-for selves. However, they perceived honors students as stressed, studious, and lacking leisure time, and they perceived honors education as disconnected from their future professional selves. Since their perceptions, which were informed by participation in advanced programs in middle school and high school, as well as our recruiting practices, were in conflict with their educational aims, our participants were unwilling to invest in honors education. While not generalizable, the results provide unique insights that may implicate institutional practices as barriers to participation because they fail to address the concerns of high-achieving students of color.