David Schaupp explores the role of race and ethnicity in a student’s experience at Research Symposium


David Schaupp at Westmont

Analisa Salvado, Staff Writer

On April 20, 40 Westmont students presented posters from three academic divisions at the 27th annual spring Student Research Symposium. Fourth-year David Schaupp and his research partner Lydia Bastian presented their poster titled “Perceptions, Experiences and Hardships of Race at a Predominantly White Christian Liberal Arts Institution.” 

Their study aimed to examine whether Westmont can be characterized as a “white space” and to delve into the experiences of students of color attending the institution. Schaupp and Bastian also wanted to research what strategies students employ to thrive here and how that compares and contrasts in terms of race and ethnicity. 

The process involved recruiting participants through snowball sampling from upperclassmen dorms and intercultural programs. The data collected was from 21 in-depth interviews with six Asian students, six white students, five Latinx students and four Black students, with each interview lasting between 45 to 90 minutes. From the data, Schaupp was able to conclude that “students of color experience Westmont differently than white students do.” 

Schaupp describes one of his motivating factors behind his research, “personally, race has been the biggest definer of my experience at Westmont.” As a minority student he wanted to “shine a light on the experiences of students of color and give a voice to other students of color about their time at Westmont.” 

With white students making up over half of Westmont’s student body, Schaupp’s project aims to provide a space for students of color to share their stories and experiences and to raise awareness about issues of racial diversity and inclusion on campus.

Through the interviews, Schaupp “heard people’s stories and had the opportunity to glimpse into their mind and worldview.” Moreover, the project allowed Schaupp to explore how race influences a person’s values and beliefs, and how it can shape their interactions with others. By examining the experiences of students of color at Westmont, he gained a better understanding of the unique challenges students of color face in a predominantly white institution.

Schaupp emphasized that“the role of race in shaping one’s experience at this institution is a defining factor, and for those who do not have to consider its impact, it is a privilege.” He explained that it is our responsibility to actively seek out and listen to the stories and experiences of those different from us, and to use our privilege and resources to uplift and support students of color. 

One of the challenges Schaupp encountered was taking huge expansive data and transforming it into meaningful insights and conclusions that could be presented clearly and coherently. He also shared it was difficult to “pick quotes from hours of interviews.” Although there were obstacles to the project, Schaupp explained that this research “informed my experience as an Asian American,” and “made me value my own mixed student experience at Westmont.” The most powerful conclusion Schaupp came to was that “my story is uniquely mine.” 

As a senior sociology major, Schaupp encourages others to pursue sociology because “it offers the opportunity to uncover hidden truths that are often taken for granted, and enables us to connect the dots and gain a deeper understanding of the social world around us.” 

Schaupp also shared that “one of the most fascinating aspects of the major is its inward focus, which encourages us to examine our own beliefs, biases and experiences, and how they shape our perceptions of the world.”

The final paper and work of Schaupp and Bastian will be published soon, and their in-depth presentation will be taking place on Wednesday, April 26. 

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