“Somewhere Safe To Go”: Fostering Belonging On College Campuses

Jenna Hua, Carnegie Foundation Post-Baccalaureate Fellow, presented her undergraduate research alongside Wellesley College Professor Stephen Chen in a poster session at the 2024 Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Conference in April. 

With research indicating a low sense of belonging among immigrant college students, coupled with the rise of xenophobia and Asian hate during COVID-19, Hua founded a semester-long racial affinity pilot program to enhance student belonging among first-year Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) students on the Wellesley campus. The launch of this community-centered program brought together twelve students who desired to forge relationships with their peers through discussions about their shared identities and experiences. 

As the program concluded, students shared their reflections, expressing a significant sentiment: rather than experiencing isolation throughout the semester, they felt comforted and empowered. They were inspired to seek out similar safe spaces where they could find a sense of community, belonging, and a willingness to embrace vulnerability.

“As a former out-of-school time youth worker, I saw how learning experiences needed to be deeply connected to students’ backgrounds and communities to attain increased engagement,” Hua said, “Being at Carnegie has allowed me to couple that first-hand experience with unparalleled access and insight into how we can transform educational practices at scale to make student-centered learning accessible to all.”

The Post Baccalaureate Fellowship is a longstanding leadership development program at the Foundation. It aims to introduce recent college graduates passionate about activating equity-focused, systems-level change in education to the Foundation’s innovative work. Currently, Jenna Hua and Brago Osei-Tutu serve as fellows for the 2023-2025 term. 

To learn more about Carnegie and XQ’s innovative work focused on creating meaningful learning experiences for the students of today, take a look at our High School Learning Zones project.