The Research Project


  • participants for ongoing research conversations


  • have grown up in poverty
  • are University of Alberta undergraduates from any discipline
  • are able to meet in-person six times over five- to six months


  • to make visible poverty-class students’ university experiences
  • to understand how universities may shape diversity policies


Elaine Laberge

Master’s thesis-based student

Department of Sociology

Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research

University of Alberta

Project Background:

Countries such as Australia, the United States, the UK, and to a lesser extent Canada, are widening access to higher education.

This is reflected in some universities seeking to develop equitable, diverse, and inclusive (EDI), socially just educational initiatives. However researchers, for the most part, continue to ignore the very poor; and predominantly focus on the experiences of students from working-class backgrounds. The limited research that does exist for students from poverty-class backgrounds assumes a uniform effect of poverty and uniform experiences in higher education.

This lack of understanding the complex and unique biographies of students, whose lives have been shaped by childhood poverty, has the effect of silencing their experiences. Further, the deficit in research perpetuates dominant ideas of what defines student ‘success’ (e.g., fake it until you make it; assimilate the middle-class higher education culture; if you fail it is your fault). These beliefs, when unchallenged, are normalized and do not bring us closer to socially just education.

Project Purpose:

Through narratively understanding the echoes of poverty for students who are composing lives in higher education, we can make visible the experiences that must influence equity, diversity, and inclusivity in higher educational policies and practices.

Research Participants:

The researcher is seeking undergraduate students from any discipline who have grown up in poverty to participate in this study. The purpose of this research is not to make generalizations, but to study narratives in an inclusive manner with the focus on poverty. Participants will self-identify with their own subjective definitions of poverty so as to respect their lived experiences. Further, undergraduate student participants may have grown up in poverty in urban, rural, and/or suburban landscapes.

Research Study Process:

The researcher and participants will negotiate the dates and locations of the research conversations. Over a five- to eight-month period, the researcher and participants will meet five to six times. Research conversations will take approximately one to two hours each. The research conversations may take place in a variety of location in the Edmonton, Alberta and surrounding area including, but not restricted to, the university campus, private spaces (e.g., homes), and public spaces; locations will be negotiated between the research and participant.


The objectives of this research are to i) better understand ways in which students, whose lives are shaped by poverty, experience getting into and through university; ii) identify barriers to higher education attainment faced by students who grow up in poverty; iii) deepen understandings of the ways in which poverty shapes students’ experiences; and iv) contribute to responsive equity, diversity, and inclusivity in higher education policies.


The Research Ethics Board at the University of Alberta has reviewed the plan for this study for its adherence to ethical guidelines.

Final Research Texts:

Final research texts, which are public texts, will be created from the interim research texts; research texts will be anonymized to protect participants’ and their family members, friends, partners, communities, educators, employers, and any education institutions attended.


Elaine Laberge

Master’s thesis-based student

Department of Sociology

Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research

University of Alberta


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s