Belonging Survey

Belonging Survey

In an effort to better understand student experiences at Georgetown as our campus engages with and addresses issues of educational equity, the Hub for Equity and Innovation in Higher Education partnered with The Georgetown Scholarship Program (GSP) to launch a study on attitudes of belonging among first-generation students. Literature shows that first-generation college students encounter hurdles as they seek to develop a sense of belonging on campuses with a disproportionate percentage of students who come from families with greater experience in higher education and greater economic and social capital.

For this research, we are using SenseMaker, a new software developed to more accurately depict complex environments like Georgetown. It achieves this by helping individuals interpret their own stories and then aggregating these annotations into a network model that reveals larger patterns. The methodology involves collecting large numbers of short stories that, together, create a nuanced picture of a given topic, in the same way that many pixels come together to produce a clear image. SenseMaker also enables action. Instead of asking, “How do we create a culture of X?” it allows us to ask, “How do we create more stories like this and fewer stories like that?”

Our work using SenseMaker follows a three-step process:


In spring 2018, we piloted a preliminary version of the tool with 58 first-generation undergraduate students at Georgetown. We spent the summer analyzing the responses to the micro-narrative tool.


In fall 2018, we will conduct focus groups with students to help us refine the tool for broader dissemination this year.


Upon receiving feedback from students and stakeholders on campus, we will launch a large-scale survey to surface attitudes toward belonging among first-generation college students here at Georgetown.

Ultimately, the results of this work will be used both for internal improvement to first-generation student support services and to share with other college campuses seeking to understand ways to support first-generation students on their campuses.

This is a joint project with The Hub for Equity and Innovation in Higher Education, in partnership with the Georgetown Scholarship Program.