July 26, 2018

About the Keynote



Lisa Nunn is an associate professor of Sociology at the University of San Diego.

Professor Nunn earned her B.A. in Literature and Theater from Whittier College in 1997. She earned her M.A. in Sociology in 2005 and her Ph.D. in Sociology in 2009 from the University of California, San Diego.

Changemaking is near and dear to me. I spent the two years after I graduated college in the Peace Corps in Limbaži, Latvia, which set the foundation for the changemaking work that I do now including every summer when Professor Mike Williams and I take USD students to do community engagement in Makuleke Village in South Africa. I also work on issues of diversity, inclusion, and social justice here on campus, as well as faculty development and mentoring. Most of all, I am devoted to first-year students. I am on the leadership team for the Collaborate living, learning community for first year students, which means that I teach and advise Collaborate students and I facilitate faculty engagement in the program.

I am the editor of a book series with Rutgers University Press, Critical Issues in American Education, and I serve in the leadership of the Sociology of Education Association, in addition to being an active member of the American Sociological Association.

My scholarship centers on students’ experiences, students’ identities, and students’ academic success and overall wellbeing. My current research follows first-year college students to see how they navigate their new campus homes and what kinds of obstacles they face to developing a sense of belonging there. As a sociologist, I care deeply about communities and how they function, and school communities are important parts of all of our lives as we grow up. I am a cultural sociologist and an organizations scholar, so I approach research questions about student belonging by looking at the role each university plays in terms of the programs and resources it provides to new students as well as the overall campus culture that the school fosters. I also systematically interview students to find out what their experiences are like, whether those school programs and resources help them, and what they do when the find themselves struggling.

I am particularly interested in first-generation college students, those for whom neither parent has a 4-year degree. When first-generation students succeed in college it is a sign that higher education is doing something right, something that benefits our entire society by serving as an engine of upward social mobility.


Pre-Conference Workshop:
Thursday, September 26 | 12:30pm-4:00pm | Location JC Bistro

33 Simple Strategies for Faculty Who Teach First-Generation and First-Year Students

Based on her new book, 33 Simple Strategies for Faculty, Lisa M. Nunn designed this workshop to help fellow faculty incorporate these straightforward tips into their teaching repertoires. The 33 strategies range from ways to tweak your syllabi and lecture slides to practicing new habits of speech that validate and support all students, especially first-generation students, in our classrooms and office hours. The workshop is structured around week-by-week resources across the semester to address the needs of all students and the unique concerns of first-year and first-generation students as they navigate the transition to college academics and college life. If you are willing to spend 5-15 minutes a week on student well-being, this workshop offers concrete and practical ideas for exactly what to do. Please bring your syllabi, assignments and lecture materials for this hands-on workshop.

1:00pm-2:15pm – Part I: Strategies for early in the semester
2:30pm-3:45pm – Part II: Strategies for later in the semester


Conference Keynote:
Friday, September 27 | 9:00am-10:15am | Johnson Center Dewberry Hall

College Belonging Is a Gift, Not an Accomplishment

Students who have a sense of belonging on campus fare better in a range of ways including: retention rates, graduation rates, and general wellbeing. At many universities underrepresented students such as first-generation students and students of color are less likely to feel that they belong. Drawing on research from first-year students at two residential universities, this keynote examines common, yet misguided strategies that universities make to help their students develop a sense of belonging. By paying attention to a fundamental dynamic of belonging that is often neglected: that belonging cannot be accomplished through one’s own will or efforts, we can see more clearly how we can create an environment in which students can thrive and feel they belong.