Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Mark P. Orbe

Second Advisor

Dr. Robin M. Boylorn

Third Advisor

Dr. Autumn Edwards


autoethnography, sensemaking, co-cultural theory, critical communication

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This thesis presents an autoethnographic interrogation of the intersections of identity for a first-generation college student (FGC) in the process of becoming an FGC PhD graduate/student. It explores the intersections of social class and power and how both concepts are embedded in educational practices, specifically through interpersonal relationships of teacher/student, and within institutions of higher education. Through the theoretical lenses of co-cultural theory and critical communication pedagogy, and the methodologies of autoethnography and the sensemaking paradigmatic framework it is possible to see how I interrogate my positionality as a working-class first-generation college graduate/student in the context of higher education institutions, and where I foresee my positionality affecting the communication discipline in terms of critical educational practices throughout the latter stages of my academic career.

This autoethnography is based on my diverse lived experiences, including my childhood and my sensemaking experiences encountering college contexts for the first time. It is also based on my specific interpersonal experiences with professors, mentors, students, and peers, and how these interpersonal experiences have created a trajectory of critical educational outlooks and goals for the communication classroom.