Braelin Pantel


Yakaboski, Tamara

Committee Member

Tucker, Gardiner

Committee Member

Gilbert, Elizabeth


Department of Leadership, Policy and Development: Higher Education and P-12 Education Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



359 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Colleges and universities often espouse values related to equity and inclusion for diverse students (Harper & antonio, 2008; Torres, Arminio, & Pope, 2012;). Student affairs practitioners are frequently responsible for working towards inclusive environments (American College Personnel Association (ACPA), & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), 2015). An estimated 31% of college and university students are classified as overweight or obese (American College Health Association, 2007), yet body weight or size is rarely a consideration in work related to student equity and inclusion on campus. Limited research exists on the experiences of students of size in college and university settings. The current study was designed as an exploratory single case study to understand the climate on campus for college students who self-identified as students of size. A feminist theoretical perspective and a critical action agenda underpinned the study. Using a descriptive single-case design, the climate for female students of size was examined at an institution in a region of the U.S. where rates of obesity are among the lowest in the country. Empathic interviews, as well as participant-generated photo elicitation, were used to illuminate the climate and to explore the climate and understand how weightrelated stigma and bias presented within the climate. The climate at the institution examined was found to be one in which size is generally hidden and missing from the institutional rhetoric and work related to diversity and equity. Students of size regularly experienced microaggressions that were perpetrated by members of the university community and as a result of environmental features within the campus. Criticism and judgment, as well as the fear of being judged, were omnipresent and harmful. Students of size were isolated and relegated to the background, when they chose to engage in their university experience at all. The challenges experienced by students of size were particularly pronounced and amplified for students who also identified as women of color. Cultural theory and the concept of problem framing were used to make meaning of the data and shape recommendations for future research, as well as practical application for higher education administrators seeking to cultivate inclusive campus environments for students of size. Higher education leaders are encouraged to adopt a size justice frame in their work to shape the campus climate in ways that are supportive of diverse students, including students of size. Specific recommendations for programmatic and environmental changes are offered.


Outstanding Dissertation

Degree type


Degree Name


Local Identifiers


Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.