An Ethnographic Case Study of Cultural Fusion, a Student-Led Event at George Mason University: A Site for Student Leadership, Activism, and Scholarship




Maloney, Jennifer A.

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This thesis is an ethnographic case study of Cultural Fusion, an annual student-led event at George Mason University. Specifically, the author inquires about whether culture and gender factors influenced a group of culturally diverse students’ participation in Cultural Fusion; how culturally diverse student leadership can effect change; and what such a study can add to overall college student development scholarship. In the process of researching and writing this thesis, the author conducted a literature search, interviews with university students and program staff, and a survey of the larger group of students who volunteered for Cultural Fusion. The author also sought and analyzed portraits, or personal statements, from Cultural Fusion’s core group of student leaders. The author used an intersectional approach to connect a range of disciplines and fields of knowledge that touch upon college student leadership development—transformative educational practice, critical race theory, whiteness studies, and feminist approaches to leadership, vii including cultural and multicultural leadership. Among other findings, the event’s student leaders draw on the positive aspects of culture as a way to share students’ identities and create a non-threatening space for bringing various groups and identities together. Cultural Fusion becomes a place for acceptance and learning, as distinguished from conditions portrayed in other campus environments, including the classroom.



Culture, Students, Gender, Multiculturalism, Leadership, Ethnicity