Diversity and Democracy

From the Editor: Intersectionality and Well-Being: A Journey toward Hope and Healing

The painting that graces our cover is entitled Pedazos, which means “fragments.” The young woman in the painting is literally in pieces, yet her face is peaceful, allowing us to imagine that she will integrate these fragments into wholeness and wellness. As an immigrant who fled political violence in Chile and settled in the United States, artist Liliana Wilson often explores themes of identity, integration, hope, and healing in her work. Her paintings El Dividido and Mujer Dividida, which appear along with Leeva C. Chung and Laura I. Rendón's article in this issue, seem to reflect how individuals may search for wholeness by examining multiple parts of their identities. As Wilson’s friend and scholar Gloria Anzaldúa wrote, “something in [Wilson’s figures’] eyes shows us that they know that after a long struggle they will cross to the distant shore where they will integrate themselves into a wholeness of sorts” (2009, 279).

Today’s college and university students face multiple struggles on their journeys to wholeness and well-being. Anxiety and depression top the list of students’ reported mental health concerns, and the number of students seeking treatment for these issues has increased in each of the past four years (Center for Collegiate Mental Health 2017). Students who have been marginalized on the basis of their social identities may face additional stressors, such as discrimination, microaggressions, poverty, feelings of isolation, or fear of deportation (Cornejo Villavicencio 2017; House 2017). To meet the needs of all students on increasingly diverse campuses, educators must work to understand how students’ intersecting identities affect their lived experiences and well-being.

This issue of Diversity & Democracy incorporates and expands on conversations from the Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP) national conference “The Whole Student: Intersectionality and Well-Being,” held in Chicago in May 2017. Cofounded in 2003 by Sally Engelhard Pingree and Donald W. Harward as an independent project in partnership with AAC&U, BTtoP has led the way in highlighting the well-being of all members of a campus community—especially students—as integral to higher education. As BTtoP (2017) defines it, well-being embodies a sense of direction and purpose, positive personal identity, strong relationships, empathy, resilience, and mindfulness.

BTtoP has underscored the importance of well-being across its conferences, workshops, seminars, publications, and grants supporting campus-based research projects. All of these manifestations of BTtoP’s work are based in research, theory, and best practices, and all are made possible with the generosity of multiple foundations, including the Charles Engelhard Foundation and the Endeavor Foundation. Resources are available at https://www.bttop.org.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to BTtoP and the Endeavor Foundation for their partnership and generous support of this issue of Diversity & Democracy. We are also extremely grateful to the BTtoP team—including Jennifer O’Brien, L. Lee Knefelkamp, Rebecca Dolinsky Graham, Donald W. Harward, Caitlin Salins, and Mercedes Yanora—for their leadership and guidance in planning and executing this issue.

Wilson wrote of her artwork, “I feel that what I do is an ofrenda, an offering, of beauty to the people who see it . . . . Through the beauty of these images, I am trying to give hope” (Castañeda and Wilson 2015, 29). Within these pages, we offer stories of and visions for hope and healing in higher education—stories of cultivating resilience, of finding common ground, of creating more inclusive campus cultures, and of understanding and supporting whole students in all their beauty and complexity.

—Emily Schuster
Editor, Diversity & Democracy


Anzaldúa, Gloria. 2009. “Bearing Witness: Their Eyes Anticipate the Healing.” In The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader, edited by AnaLouise Keating, 277–79. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Bringing Theory to Practice. 2017. “BTtoP National Conference. The Whole Student: Intersectionality and Well-Being.” https://www.bttop.org/bttop-national-conference-whole-student-intersectionality-and-well-being.

Castañeda, Antonia, and Liliana Wilson. 2015. “Ofrenda.” In Ofrenda: Liliana Wilson’s Art of Dissidence and Dreams, edited by Norma E. Cantú, 13–30. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.

Center for Collegiate Mental Health. 2017. 2017 Annual Report. State College, PA: Penn State. https://sites.psu.edu/ccmh/files/2018/01/2017_CCMH_Report-1r3iri4.pdf.

Cornejo Villavicencio, Karla. 2017. “The Psychic Toll of Trump’s DACA Decision.” New York Times, September 8. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/08/opinion/sunday/mental-health-daca.html.

House, Jeremy. 2017. “College Counselors Share Best Practices for Treating Mental Health of Diverse Students.” Diverse Issues in Higher Education, November 15. http://diverseeducation.com/article/105130/.

Emily Schuster is the editor of Diversity & Democracy.

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