Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education and Organizational Leadership Development

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Natasha N. Croom

Committee Member

Dr. David Franco

Committee Member

Dr. Nafees M. Khan

Committee Member

Dr. Rachel Wagner


In the United States, community colleges have served diverse student populations, including students of color and students with disabilities. While these colleges are celebrated for their access and affordability, student success is not guaranteed. As educators work to continuously improve course and program completion, students’ sense of belonging is critical. However, a review of scholarship from education, architecture, and planning revealed how students have navigated campuses that have not met their needs or reflected their experiences and have even been settings for discriminatory behaviors ranging from microaggressions to oppression. Recognizing the potential to increase sense of belonging through student participation and empowerment, this study used critical inquiry to determine how four community colleges recognized by the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award have promoted belongingness as they developed campus spaces. While interviews with college presidents and vice presidents revealed the will to engage students in campus building, none of the colleges achieved the highest levels of student participation during their most recent capital projects. Additionally, the study found that student participation occurred because of leaders’ choices, as formal structures to ensure student involvement were not evident. Finally, the study concludes with practical implications for colleges aiming to increase student belongingness and success as they invest in campus structures and features that will last for decades.



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