Date of Award

Spring 2008

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Sociology and Anthropology

Abstract

For my thesis I will be analyzing the social perceptions at Lehigh University of the undergraduate students in this college community. Through informal conversations with friends, peers, faculty, and staff, I have been made aware of several ways in which the Lehigh campus is itself divided. I am interested in the subcultures that exist on campus and how people perceive their campus social universe. Recently due to events on campus there has been a lot oftalk about campus climate and problems with diversity. As a result I am interested in painting a picture of the campus to try and see where the divisions lie and what may be causing the general sentiment of discontent. The goal of this thesis is to construct a cultural model of Lehigh social perceptions by determining if there are general themes throughout the campus on the ways in which people are perceived and grouped. This research project is based on the idea of a cultural model, what it means, what it can tell about a community, how to construct one, and how to be sure that one is present or not. I have done research on campus perceptions through two sets of interviews. The overall purpose of my research project is to understand how students classify themselves and their peers. I want to discuss of the different perspectives that are present on campus and compare them. The way that people perceive themselves and others within the Lehigh community is the underlying objective. I became interested in the topic of my research from being aware of the feeling that Lehigh University lacks diversity. I knew that the campus climate survey was done in order to evaluate the environment on campus and how comfortable the population feels. I wanted to expand upon this research by developing a picture of what the campus looks like socially in a picture. My original goal was to come up with a picture of sorts that had each group represented by a dot on a graph of sorts. Then I would be able to see how similar people perceive each group to be. Unfortunately it turns out that people do not actually talk about the groups on campus by listing them all and thus my original plan did not work out. I ended up focusing on dimensions of difference because that is how people talk about groups on campus. I will go into more detail about this throughout my paper. To begin this project I must first attempt to define the nature of university life along with its many different aspects that become salient through background research. I am going to discuss literature that discusses campus climate and aspects of a social universe. In doing this I will define the terms and look at how these are applicable to my research. Then I am going to briefly review the concept of a cultural model and how that will fit into my research. Next I will go through my methods of how I conducted my interviews and how my process changed. Then I will go into my sample descriptively and talk about problems and how representative it is. Next I will discuss my results and analyze what I got out of the interviews that I conducted. Finally I will conclude my paper by talking about the cultural model that I found at Lehigh University and discuss its significance as well as where to go from here.

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