- Straddling Class in the Academy: 26 Stories of Students, Administrators, and Faculty From Poor and Working-Class Backgrounds and Their Compelling Lessons for Higher Education Policy and Practice by Sonja Ardoin and Becky Martinez
In Straddling Class in the Academy, Sonja Ardoin and becky martinez bring 26 individuals together to discuss how social class has impacted their journeys through higher education. They do this because "there is critical learning to be had from those poor or working-class backgrounds, particularly in the academy, because it is founded on and immersed in elitism" (p. 6). Each chapter focuses on a particular group of people, starting with current undergraduate students, moving to faculty and administrators, and ending with individuals who have left higher education. Within each chapter are narratives from three individuals on how they experienced class, because "stories can be used as a platform to inform higher education how it maintains social class inequities" (p. 5). The narratives are powerful, highlighting how class and [End Page 669] continued time within the academy shape identities. Additionally, each story provides a concrete example of how higher education often excludes those from poor and working-class backgrounds. At the end of each chapter, Ardoin and martinez briefly provide their analysis of the three narratives and then conclude the book with a thematic analysis of all of the narratives. Depending on the chapter, the analysis by the authors can feel more like a summary, but the conclusion chapter expertly considers all 26 narratives to highlight how class consistently impacts higher education experiences.
In the introduction, the authors provide an overview of social class and detail their own positionality before introducing the contributing writers of the following chapters. They pique the interest of the readers by demonstrating the power of a person's story and also provide an overview of their analytical approach with the stories throughout the book.
In chapter 1, the authors immediately cite research on the willful exclusion of higher education toward the poor and working class. Then, they describe research on how class can impact experiences for each group within higher education. This pointed literature review speaks to the need for the following chapters and preemptively provides credibility to each of the writers. In the second half of chapter 1, the authors discuss what is meant by social class, defining four different theoretical models: Bourdieu's (1972/1977, 1984/1993) cultural and social capital, Yosso's (2005) community cultural wealth model, the social class worldview model by Liu, Soleck, Hopps, Dunston, and Pickett (2004), and social class concepts by Hurst (2010). None of the models are especially prioritized or heralded, leaving the reader to wonder which model is the most appropriate for conceptualizing class in the following chapters.
Chapter 2 includes the narratives of three undergraduate students from three different institutions that span the United States. Class became an important part of developing their identities even though they differed in how they thought about and defined poor and working class. Each student also discussed the challenges they continue to face, such as the price of tuition and engaging in new academic practices.
Chapter 3 includes the narratives from graduate students in both masters and PhD programs at two different institutions. Each of these students discussed how social class influenced their identities and how they desired to get an advanced degree to give back to their communities. Each reflected on different struggles they had encountered along the way, such as increasing student loan debt and feeling disconnected from their families.
In chapter 4, narratives from three early-career administrators at three different institutions relay how these individuals felt their administrators helped them succeed in college; they chose careers in administration to help more low-class students in the same ways. They discussed being challenged by lower salaries and prestige compared to their peers with similar degrees and differing types of positions. Additionally, due...