American Sociological Association

‘‘I Can Turn It on When I Need To’’: Pre-college Integration, Culture, and Peer Academic Engagement among Black and Latino/a Engineering Students

Drawing on interviews with 38 black and Latino/a engineering students at a predominantly white, elite university, I use a cultural analytic framework to explicate the role of pre–college integration in the heterogeneous psychosocial and academic experiences of students of color on predominantly white campuses. I identify three cultural strategies students of color adopt to navigate the university’s ethnoracially segregated peer network landscape and more specifically, engage majority–white academic peer networks: integration, marginalized segregation, and social adaptation. Integrators, who hail from predominantly white high schools, engage majority–white academic networks with ease, do not experience ethnoracial marginalization, and form predominantly white networks in college. Marginalized segregators, who come from predominantly black, Latino/a, or mixed high schools, exhibit discomfort engaging majority–white academic networks, experience ethnoracial marginalization, and form predominantly same–race or co–ethnic networks in college. Finally, social adapters, who come from high schools with varying ethnoracial compositions, manage their experiences with ethnoracial marginalization to engage majority–white academic networks with ease, and the ethnoracial composition of their college networks varies. The findings extend previous scholarship on the experiences of black and Latino/a students on predominantly white campuses and uncover the cultural processes that contribute to the reproduction of inequality among students of color.


Anthony M. Johnson





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