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Making Sense of Diversity:
A Series of Friday Noon Conversations at Bryn Mawr College

September 23, 2005

Christina Gubitosa, Molly McTague, Li Huan Lai, Anka Wilk, Nell Anderson and Jody Cohen

College as a Choice:
Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams


Prepared by Anne Dalke
Additions, revisions, extensions are encouraged
in the On-Line Forum

Nell opened the discussion by summarizing the talk that Alfred Lubrano had given the night before, about the often painful conflicts experienced by "straddlers," students from blue collar families who cross socio-economic and cultural divides when they come to college in pursuit of "white collar dreams." Four students then spoke of their own experiences coming from working class backgrounds to study at Bryn Mawr; they described the "complexities of being blue color," their sense of "not being quite in," of "not quite fitting," of having "viewpoints that weren't quite right." Cultural differences made joining conversations difficult. The sense that most of the personal experiences described in classrooms are pretty similar ("those are the people who talk") led to a perception that the views of working class people were not in the majority here. Students from blue color neighborhoods are homesick for what is familiar. But when they go home and try to talk about what they are learning in school, they may be put down for being "too smart," or a "proper white girl," by friends who are not in school, but instead "living grown up lives."

Participants added a range of other perspectives and experiences:

Jody closed the conversation by thanking all participants for "allowing us to complexify this 'straddler' notion," and reminded us of the brave stories we started with. There are different experiences here, and it is valuable for us all to know about them.

The discussion is invited to continue further in the on-line forum on "Making Sense of Diversity," and will resume in person at noon next Friday, September 30, when Amy Craiger, Val Jankowski and Jackney Prioly will lead a discussion about "Governing Ourselves: Does the System Support Everyone?"

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