Master of Arts in Higher Education (MAHE) Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Todd Ream

Second Advisor

Jeff Aupperle

Third Advisor

Drew Moser


This qualitative study researched the impacts of the 2020 presidential election on college students’ sense of belonging and the differences in impacts between White students and students of color. Belonging is crucial to student experience, and students of color face more barriers to belonging than White students. Additionally, the 2016 presidential election left more lasting negative effects on mental health and student experience than previous elections. These impacts were more directly felt by students of color. In this study ten White students and ten students of color were interviewed about their experiences during the 2020 election. Both groups indicated that the election impacted their campus political climate, relationships, ability to be fully understood on campus, and anticipation of post-election responses. Additionally, students of color indicated the election increased existing issues of belonging, the election results would directly impact them long-term, and their race and politics were linked in ways not present for White students. Findings indicate the 2020 election impacted sense of belonging in all students, and more directly impacted students of color than White students. Findings inform implications for future practices in student development programming. Limitations and implications for future election research are also discussed.