What’s Their Capital? Applying a Community Cultural Wealth Model to UR
by Buffie Longmire-Avital
Steeped in critical race theory (CRT), Yosso’s (2005) work presents a helpful framework for recognizing the capital that HURMS bring to a mentored relationship, more specifically the undergraduate research (UR). In applying CRT, Yosso expands the default assumptions around cultural capital to reflect what she refers to as “community cultural wealth.” This wealth is born out of the experience of being a historical minority.
According to Yosso (2005), there are six types of capital that are nurtured by communities of color and collectively form cultural wealth that can be overlooked if not using a CRT lens. These six types of capital are what I firmly believe contribute to the dynamic potential of HURMS in UR and the benefits we as faculty stand to inherit when we enter into a collaborative mentored partnership.
- Aspirational capital – This is what I refer to as the “never the less they persist” attitude. Yosso describes this capital as resiliency that develops as a result of encountered countless barriers, many of them structural and institutional. It is the ability to maintain dreams and the tireless commitment to pursue those dreams. This is the first-generation student that not only intends to graduate college but obtain an advanced graduate degree. When I am on the hunt for students to join my research team, my eye typically goes to the student that hustles. This may not be the most technically advanced student; they may also not have certain basic skills or prior knowledge, but they want the training and they want the experience because they are very clear on how this experience will get them one step closer to achieving their dreams. It is this aspirational capital that I draw much energy from. When working with a student that has aspirational capital I notice that my research question is always much more innovative and boundary position. Given the boundaries HURMS often have to push back against or slip through, their ability to see across boundaries and push the research to reflect this is a major gain for me.
- Linguistic capital – Yosso defines linguistic capital as, “the intellectual and social skills attained through communication experiences in more than one language and/or style” (2005, p. 78). One of my current research students might be one of the best qualitative coders I have ever encountered. In fact, she is much better than me. Her ability to read through participant responses and chunk down to the smallest code without losing the links to the larger categories and themes is mesmerizing to witness. I believe the facts that she is first generation American and has been exposed to multiple languages and dialects throughout her life have both contributed to the skill that I and the other students on the research team are benefiting from. She is also a student of color who effortlessly code-switches as she navigates the various social spaces she engages with across the campus. Linguistic capital also includes communication across mediums, such as visual arts, performance arts, music and poetry. Recruiting research participants from online social networks not affiliated with the University is incredibly challenging; having students who can create flyers or navigate social media sites like snapchat, Instagram, and the ancient Facebook or twitter has increased both the reach of my studies and the richness of the participant samples. I have noticed that these skills are often brought to my team by HURMS.
- Familial capital – This capital reflects a commitment to community level well-being and an understanding of kinship (or the extending family unit that is defined not by blood relation but shared social experiences). To me, this is reflected in students’ ability to work collaboratively. It is the acknowledgement and acceptance that all the studies within my lab are interconnected, and at times, resources and energies may all need to be diverted to a particular study in order to meet goals. I also see this capital in the level of support students give each other outside of our lab meetings, often becoming lateral mentors to each other, which alleviates some of the demands placed on me. The flexibility and ability to have fluid ownership links back to the desired skill of collaborative effort. However, the often overlooked benefit for the faculty member is the easing of pressure to be everywhere.
- Social capital – Simply, social capital is engagement and membership in social networks. We, as faculty, often only consider the connections or circles we will bring our students into. I recently got back from a national conference with one of my undergraduate research students. I spent a good portion of the trip introducing her to many of my collaborators and colleagues. This is the expected scenario. However, I smile brightest when my students, usually as a result of pulling from their aspirational capital, bring me the business cards of researchers, scholars, community activists, even artists whom they have connected with. In addition to the connections my previous HURMS have provided me with, they have also been the best recruiters for new students to enter my lab and join the team. At just the moment I accept that I will have a team of one, another student walks through my door, and usually, they inform me that they have already talked with one of my graduating students. This lateral recruitment or reference check of me reminds me of the need I had as an undergraduate to seek out connections with potential mentors that my student familial had deemed safe.
- Navigational capital – This capital reflects the ability of HURMS to “maneuver” around, within, and between institutions that were not crafted for or ever envisioned the presence of the HURMS. Yosso cites the ability of students to maintain their course of high achievement despite the ongoing presence of discrimination and hostility directed toward their minority status. Perhaps an example of this is my own story of experiencing racism and using it as not only a motivator but as the basis for my research question and ongoing work. Taking a painful experience and reclaiming it to become the fuel for my research not only reflects navigational capital but also aspirational. I consider this when I reflect on the levels of commitment I have received from students who consider our research as an extension of their often untold story, in comparison to students who are just interested in the topic. The ability to channel adversity into motivation does not stop at the level of commitment; it is also present in the ways these students weave in other experiences and knowledge to enhance the productivity of the team and project.
- Resistant capital – My HURMS do not see or seek out the UR experience to simply check off a box; the students I have been fortunate to work with for nearly a decade view the research as do I, as a vehicle for bubble bursting, equity, and change. In holding this perception, it challenges me to not simply do research for publication but for change. As an applied critical scholar this is perhaps the most important capital I gain; this is the one that sustains me.
- Oliver M & Shapiro T (1995). Black wealth/White wealth: a new perspective on racial inequality. New York: Routledge.
- Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8 (1), 69 – 91.
Buffie Longmire-Avital, associate professor of psychology and coordinator of African and African-American studies, is the 2018-2020 Center for Engaged Learning Scholar. Dr. Longmire-Avital’s CEL Scholar project focuses on diversity and inclusion in high-impact practices.
How to cite this post:
Longmire-Avital, Buffie. (2019, March 4). What’s Their Capital? Applying a Community Cultural Wealth Model to UR [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/whats-their-capital-applying-a-community-cultural-wealth-model-to-ur/