Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 2014 Shelly Wen. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies Department, Ethnic Studies

First Advisor

Cheryl Jones-Walker

Second Advisor

Sarah Willie-LeBreton


This senior undergraduate thesis examines how the context of Swarthmore College, an elite, predominantly white institution, has affected the racial and activist identities on students of color involved in increasing course and faculty diversity or campaigning for an Ethnic Studies academic program at Swarthmore. The lenses of Critical Race Theory and Racial Identity Formation theories and the context of existing studies on students of color in predominantly white institutions provided the backdrop for analyzing themes across student of color organizers’ relationships to Swarthmore. Based on the participants’ experiences, Swarthmore was an institution that they could not trust, but at the same time, smaller communities within Swarthmore provided spaces of support and resilience. Furthermore, the intersectionality of students’ identities complicated the contras between the exclusion these students’ felt from Swarthmore and support they gained within smaller communities. This thesis concludes with concrete actions Swarthmore College should take in order to rebuild trust with student activists of color at Swarthmore.