NASPA Online Learning Community

Exploring the Ways Jargon Influences Access & Success for First-gen Students

College knowledge consists of the information and resources students need to navigate the higher education system. One distinct aspect of college knowledge is the language and acronyms that institutions use to create their own jargon (e.g., Ardoin, 2018; Ardoin, 2021—see Critical Conversation Six; Jarvis, 2019). Utilizing research data and case studies, the presenter will explore the ways jargon influences college access and success for first-generation college students and families. She will discuss how jargon shows up in and shapes student matriculation and transition; creates barriers and challenges during campus experiences; and influences persistence and completion. The presenter will offer suggestions for managing jargon use and continuing to learn about these topics.

Learning Outcomes:

Participants will:

  • discover how college knowledge and institutional jargon can be an access and success challenge, particularly for first-generation college students;
  • examine jargon examples through research, data, and case studies; and
  • determine steps to reduce jargon and broaden language and communication to be more inclusive of all students and campus community members.

Sonja Ardoin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs

Clemson University

Sonja Ardoin, Ph.D. is a learner, educator, facilitator, and author. Proud of her rural hometown of Vidrine, Louisiana; her working-class, Cajun roots; and her first-generation college student to Ph.D. journey, Sonja holds degrees from Louisiana State University, Florida State University, and North Carolina State University. She considers herself a scholar-practitioner of higher education; she served as an administrator for 10 years before shifting to the faculty in 2015. She currently serves as an associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Clemson University. Sonja studies social class identity, college access and success for rural and first-generation college students, student and women’s leadership, and career preparation and pathways in higher education and student affairs. Sonja has published six books, one monograph, and numerous book chapters and journal articles. She stays engaged in the broader field through ACPA, AFLV, ASHE, the Center for First-generation Student Success, NASPA, SACSA, and several journal editorial boards. She enjoys books, traveling, music, sports, laughing, and spending time with her husband, daughter, and pup. Learn more about Sonja's work here.

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