Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Leadership and Policy Studies


Student Personnel

Committee Chair

R Eric Platt

Committee Member

Donna Menke

Committee Member

Wendy Griswold

Committee Member

Edith Gnanadass


Elite higher education and racial minority students have recently been a major topic of discussion and research. Using current research into the retention and completion of racial minority students, the research used in this thesis has indicated that there are invisible barriers still in place for racial minority college students. These barriers are enigmatic by nature and have been called upon to be researched. To better understand and aid in the holistic development of racial minority students, this thesis uses a Bordieuan philosophical lens to critique currently accepted ideas and concepts within the space of elite and predominantly white institutions. Three such concepts are: white privilege, college student identity development, and the constructs that make up embodied cultural capital. The literature of this study sets up a deeper look into how racial minority student identity is and is not developed, how white privilege impacts them, and how the path to cultural capital for racial minority students is neglected. With the lack of identity development in the space of elite higher education, this thesis shows how a traditionally marginalized student group is wittingly or unwittingly forced to create a second white identity in the pursuit of cultural capital. With this dynamic in place, this thesis endeavors to uncover how a second white identity is created, how the concepts of cultural capital can be devalued for racial minority students and turned into a type of counterfeit cultural capital, and in turn, overlooked as an invisible barrier for racial minority students in elite higher education.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.