Colloquium - Amy Wilkins

April 26, 2018

Amy Wilkins (Ph.D. University of Massachusetts, 2004) is Associate Professor of Sociology. Her substantive areas of interest focus on intersectional inequalities (gender, race, class, and sexuality), identities, youth, and the transition to adulthood. Her research has appeared in Gender & Society, Signs, and Social Psychology Quarterly, and her book, Goths, Wannabes, and Christians: Gender, Race, Class, and Sexuality in Youth Cultures was published in 2008 by the University of Chicago Press. Her methodological specialties are ethnographic fieldwork and interviewing.

“Whatever It Takes? Gender and Social Integration for White First-Generation College Students” 

In the contemporary United Stated, four-year colleges are the expected path to middle class adulthood. But race, class, and gender differences in academic and social integration matter for how students experience college life. In today’s talk, I investigate the integration experiences and the identity stories of first-generation white men and women attending a predominantly white four-year public, flagship research university in the interior west that I call Western. I examine each group’s accounts of both high school and college. I ask three questions: First, how did first-generation white men and women create trajectories to college while they were in high school? In other words, how did they get to college in the first place, and how do they explain it? Second, how do race, class, and gender constrain or facilitate first-generation white men and women’s identity strategies once they get to college, and third, what is the relationship between the identity strategies they used in high school and the ones they used in college? I find that the first-generation white men in my study learned to adapt to classed expectations in high school, and that race and gender expectations/dynamics/processes allowed them to do this. I find that first-generation white women’s high school strategy of hard work, in contrast, did not prepare them for the gendered class expectations of college life. I show how the gendered and classed expectation of the university constrain the ability of white first-generation women to mobilize their strategy of hard work, leading to greater isolation and undermining their chosen identities. I think about these processes in relationship to the general expectation that four-year colleges are the expected pathway to middle class adulthood in the United States. I argue that these processes not only lead to differences in the kind of outcomes education scholars typically concern themselves with, but also entail different emotional and psychic costs to self. 


Key Speaker/Guest of Event: 
Amy Wilkins
Affliation/Title of Key Speaker/Guest: 
Associate Professor, University of Colorado Boulder
Event Location: 
Robertson Hall Room 258
Date of event: 
Thursday, April 26, 2018 - 3:30pm