Higher Standards for Higher Education: Intersectionality in the College Curriculum

By: Morgan Rentko '17

Advising Faculty: Joan Chrisler

In a time where marginalized groups are facing institutional and interpersonal oppression, intersectionality is a crucial theory understanding how the intersections of different facets of identity (e.g., race, gender, age, sexuality, socioeconomic class, ability) expose people to privilege, power, and oppression. The present study is based on how intersectionality related to the theories of critical consciousness and social dominance, as well as research on identification with the feminist movement, experience with gender and women’s studies courses, and levels of self-esteem. It was designed to assess students’ willingness to take a college course that incorporates intersectional content. A total of 114 Connecticut College students from various psychology courses participated in the study. Two syllabi for a hypothetical freshman year seminar about criminal justice in the United States were prepared. The experimental syllabus used an intersectional framework to explore criminal justice and specifically included content about marginalized populations, whereas the control syllabus focused on the criminal justice system more generally. Students were randomly placed either in the experimental or control condition, read the syllabus, and then answered a questionnaire about their interest in the course. This was followed by measures of critical consciousness, social dominance orientation, and self-esteem, and questions about experience with and interest in gender and women’s studies and feminist identity. Higher levels of critical consciousness and lower levels of social dominance orientation significantly predicted willingness to take the intersectional course. These results support previous research about the relationship among critical consciousness, social dominance orientation, and intersectionality.

View this honors paper in its entirety at Digital Commons @ Connecticut College.

Related Fields: Psychology