Mapping Student Networks (De Bessa)

Section 1


I use this exercise to explore student networks, friendship, and diversity and to provide students with interviewing practice. The exercise is inspired by chapter three, "Community and Diversity," of Rebekah Nathan's, My Freshman Year. I ask students to interview each other about their close college friends: how and why those friendships emerged, the contexts in which they interact, and about the ethnic/racial identity of each interviewees' friends. I have sometimes asked students to conduct this interview with a student outside of class and then to bring the results to class to share. And they compare responses, students look for patterns in interviewees' answers. These can then be compared to Nathan's findings and conclusions about ego-centered student networks, community building, and the challenges universities face in fostering meaningful discussion and interaction among a diverse student population. The class discussion about student networks can be tied to university policies and goals regarding the importance of diversity and community-building and to students' narratives of how they "ended up" at the university.

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