Colleges and universities are struggling to retain their underrepresented students; some are searching for solutions and others are reluctant to update support services to better serve the students who require them the most. Underrepresented students are more likely to experience challenges and barriers that impact their ability to academically succeed and achieve their degrees. Many of these barriers are linked to their intersecting identities and are a result of systemic oppression. Underrepresented students deserve intersectional support systems and services that recognize their intersecting identities, work against interlocking oppressive systems and policies, and create a level playing field for underrepresented students. Student support services such as coaching and proactive advising have the potential to be intersectional support systems. In this thesis, I conduct qualitative interviews with staff members at a midwestern university to gain insight into their experience of coaching and providing proactive advising to underrepresented students and analyze these services for principles of intersectionality. I had three objectives (1) understand proactive advising and coaching, (2) discover if and how the identities of the students and coaches affect how the students are coached or advised, and (3) learn about the challenges and barriers underrepresented students experience and how their coach helps them overcome them. The following objectives served to answer my research question is intersectionality, explicitly or implicitly, involved in the coaching and advising of underrepresented students? The interviews included discussions of a variety of topics, including student identities, barriers and challenges of underrepresented students, and the services and programs provided to the students by the coaches. The analysis of the interviews revealed that intersectionality was not explicitly involved but manifested implicitly in the coaching and proactive advising process for the majority of the coaches. Recommendations for future research are also discussed. Additionally, this research could be an example of an intersectional support system that could be applied at other universities and diversity offices.


Laura Harrison

Committee Member

Kristie Campana

Committee Member

Sara Granberg-Rademacker

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)

Program of Study

Gender and Women's Studies


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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