Study inspects students’ sense of belonging

Brandi Peters
Staff Writer

A longitudinal study at the University of La Verne explored the students’ sense of belonging at a Hispanic-serving institution and its ability to serve the minority student population.

This study, which is conducted once every five years, was orchestrated by Judy Holiday, associate professor in and chair of the department of rhetoric and communication studies, and a small peer tutoring and writing class. The class consisted of Anna Christie, co-researcher and sophomore psychology major, Jonathan I. Navarro, co-researcher and sophomore psychology major and Jesse Espinoza, co-researcher and sophomore political science major. 

The peer tutoring and writing class conducted a survey, then submitted a written proposal, and poster to the Conference on College Composition and Communication for an opportunity to attend the conference in Chicago of February 2023. This event, which is held annually, is considered prestigious and well-known among scholars and teachers, it has also given a platform to ULV students to share their research.

The team worked closely together last semester to survey 225 first-year traditional undergraduate students in their first-year writing classes at ULV. 

“Scholarly literature shows that there is a direct correlation between a sense of belonging and success of the students,” Holiday said.

In 2017, a group of students, led by Holiday, conducted a study and concluded that many of the minority students did not feel comfortable. The most uncomfortable of the group were African American and Latinx students. 

Some of the tools implemented in the rise of morality when it comes to a sense of belonging is creating places for people to belong. The African American students gained a strong Black Student Union to support the needs of its members as well as the Latino Student Forum. Adjustments had been made to material that is being taught to include minority authors. 

“Great changes were made, so basically the whole school out of our population feels a better sense of belonging,” Christie said.  

However, even with all the wonderful adjustments made, this year the test turned out a little different for the Asian and Asian American group. This group ranked the lowest out of all the different ethnicities, when it came to having a sense of belonging. 

Some of the questions asked were “I feel welcome at the University of La Verne, I feel comfortable sharing my experiences and struggles with my professors, I feel faculty and staff understand me and can address my needs.” There were a total of 10 questions asked by the first-year students to gauge the sense of belonging on the campus.

The statement that really caught the eye of the peers’ team was “I have felt uncomfortable on campus and did not report it because I believed the school would not understand.” This response was given by the Asian and Asian American students. This group was the only minority that strongly agreed with this sentiment. 

Holiday said the response given by the Asian and Asian American students may be because of the rhetoric and hate speech throughout the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, and online learning did not contribute positively to the students being able to feel like they belonged.

“I would like to bring this information to the administrators to tell them how essential it is for the students to have that sense of belonging, because a student’s greater sense of belonging, equals to a higher personal and academic success rate.” Navarro said. 

Holiday said social clubs and student clubs are believed to help individuals’ confidence along with making them feel included. 

The Peers Tutoring and writing group plans to take some ideas to the administrators to help the Asian and Asian American and Pacific Islanders feel more a sense of belonging. 

Some of the suggestions that they have in mind are, creating clubs that are more personal and identifiable for the Asian and Asian American Students and Pacific Islanders. Creating an AAPI club to increase social engagement, as well as expand on the book selections that are used to teach in the classroom to include more Asian authors. 

Christie said that she has seen a difference in the way teachers and professors interact with their students since the first survey was conducted because it put things into perspective and allowed people to learn and view things differently. 

“Research is not simply asking people questions, there’s a whole lot of analysis that goes down to put all this information in the proper context.” Espinoza said.

The research was presented to scholars, writers, teachers, and peers in the Conference on College Composition and Communication. The group hopes to present their research at the  University of La Verne in the near future. 

“This research is so important and significant to the whole university,” Navarro said. 

Brandi Peters can be reached at

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Brandi Peters is a staff writer and staff photographer for the Campus Times, and a staff photographer for La Verne Magazine.


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