The Inconvenient Truth About Institutional Engagement: A Qualitative Look at Freshmen Perceptions.

  • Donald J Comi Whitworth University


Through a qualitative case-study, the author explores the transitional experience of traditional university freshmen students as they journey from initial acceptance through to the end of first semester.  Within this transitional period students formulate relationships, the socio-cultural connections that carry them through the educational experience and beyond.  Institutional engagement strategies serve to influence these important socio-cultural connections ostensibly to create opportunity for access, contribute positively to academic success and support social connection. Findings from student interviews coalesced into four categories: 1) perceptions of authentic relationships, 2) perceptions of isolation and segregation, 3) perceptions of a lack of institutional consistency, and 4) perceptions of helplessness.  Multi-cultural engagements designed to support diversity, equity and inclusion surfaced in various and sometimes surprising ways.  Most notably students spoke about perceived segregation and barriers to inclusion. The author examines the findings highlighting implications for policy and practice in light of compound and unique student perceptions. 

Author Biography

Donald J Comi, Whitworth University

Assistant Professor

School of Education


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How to Cite
Comi, D. J. (2020). The Inconvenient Truth About Institutional Engagement: A Qualitative Look at Freshmen Perceptions. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 3(1), 51-73. Retrieved from