Belonging at UMass Amherst: Commonalities and Differences

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In the aggregate, a vast majority across all four populations (around 90%) report feeling like they belong to the UMass Amherst community at least “to some extent.” However, the percent who feel like they don’t belong at all exceeds 20 percent for some social identity groups. As one example, consider differences in belonging by race/ethnicity across populations (see graphs below): To varying degrees, Black, Latinx, and Multiracial individuals are less likely than White individuals to feel they belong “to a great extent” or “to some extent.” 

The interactive Tableau dashboards associated with this report (see links at end of document) provide additional insights about similarities and differences in sense of belonging by social identity aspects. Exploration of these interactive graphs reveals additional social identity groups with 20 percent or more who feel they belong “to no extent” (e.g., non-binary graduate students, faculty who identify as having a disability, and undergraduates who identify as having a mental health disability). Further, across all four populations (to varying degrees) survey participants with the following identity aspects are among those most likely to report a strong sense of belonging: men, heterosexuals, and individuals without a disability. Conversely, individuals who identify as women, non-binary, trans, gender questioning, LGB, “another” sexual orientation, or having a disability are among the least likely to report a strong sense of belonging.

Intersectionality

As mentioned previously, intersectional analyses are one avenue for developing a deeper understanding of sense of belonging. This analytic practice allows for close examination of specific subgroups of students, staff and faculty, and is particularly useful for illuminating the experiences of those whose social identities include more than one historically marginalized identity aspect. As an example, the chart below shows, for undergraduate students, sense of belonging (to a great extent) by disability identity, controlling for race/ethnicity. As illustrated, across most racial/ethnic groups, the percent of undergraduates indicating that they feel like they belong “to a great extent” is lower for those who have a disability. Future research briefs will continue to explore the relationship between intersecting identities and individuals’ experiences with the campus climate.