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Advancing Frameworks for Multiple Dimensions of Identity

Susan R. Jones

Elisa S. Abes

Foreword by Marcia B. Baxter Magolda

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2.1 Disciplinary Theoretical Genealogy
2.2 Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development
2.3 Marcia’s Identity Statuses
2.4 Chickering and Reisser’s Seven Vectors of Development
2.5 Evolution of Identity Theories
4.1 Key Categories and Elements of the MMDI
6.0 Overview of Relationships Among Three Theoretical Perspectives
9.1 Characteristics of Contexts that Foster Students’ Critical Understanding of Identity
10.1   Relationships Among Theoretical Perspectives


2.1 Model of Relationships Among Theories About the Development of College Students
3.1 Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
3.2 Multidimensional Identity Model
4.1 Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
4.2 MMDI and the Prism of Privilege and Difference
4.3 MMDI Template
5.1 Development Toward Self-Authorship
5.2 Reconceptualized Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
5.3 RMMDI and Its Relationship to Self-Authorship
5.4 KT and External Meaning Making
5.5 KT and Early Crossroads Meaning Making
5.6 Carmen and Early Crossroads Meaning Making
5.7 Carmen and Later Crossroads Meaning Making
6.1 The Intersectional Model of Multiracial Identity
6.2 Intersectional Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
7.1 Critical Race Theory Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
8.1 Queered Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
10.1 Derrick’s Borderland Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
10.2 Ian’s Borderland Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
10.3 Kira’s Borderland Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
10.4 Alex’s Borderland Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity
10.5   Mei-Yen’s Borderland Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity


Elisa S. Abes is an associate professor in the Student Affairs in Higher Education program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Prior to joining the faculty at Miami University, she was an assistant professor at the University of South Florida and a litigation attorney at Frost & Jacobs. Abes’s research focuses on lesbian identity, multiple social identities, the use of theory in student affairs research and practice, and critical and queer approaches to student development theory. She has served on the editorial board for the Journal of College Student Development. She is the recipient of professional awards, including the ACPA Annuit Coeptis award for an emerging professional and the Nevitt Sanford Research Award from the Commission on Professional Preparation. She has also been selected as an Association for College Student Personnel (ACPA) Emerging Scholar. She earned her BA in English from The Ohio State University, her JD from Harvard Law School, and her PhD from Ohio State.

Susan R. Jones is an associate professor in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at The Ohio State University. Prior to rejoining the faculty at Ohio State, she was an associate professor in the College Student Personnel program at the University of Maryland, College Park. She began her faculty career at Ohio State, where she served as an assistant professor and director of the Student Personnel Assistantship program after a number of years as a student affairs administrator, including as the dean of students at Trinity College of Vermont. Jones’s research focuses on social identities, college student identity development, intersectionality, and service-learning. She is also a coauthor of the book Negotiating the Complexities of Qualitative Research in Higher Education and an associate editor for the Journal of College Student Development. She has received a number of awards, including NASPA’s Robert H. Shaffer Award for Academic Excellence as a Graduate Faculty Member, ACPA’s Senior Scholar award, the Outstanding Scholar Award from the University of Maryland College of Education Alumni, and Ohio State’s Distinguished Teaching Award. She earned her BA in sociology from St. Lawrence University, her master’s degree from the University of Vermont, and her PhD from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Chapter Contributors

David Kasch is a doctoral candidate in the Higher Education and Organizational Change program at the University of California, Los Angeles. He serves as a lead editor for InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, and teaches courses on college student development, organizational theory, and qualitative research at the University of Redlands. His research focuses on the influence of social media on college student identity development, the commodification of identity and self-concept in higher education, and college student expressions of microaggressions through social media. David earned a BA in music and recording arts from Loyola Marymount University and master’s degrees in college student personnel from Miami University and in higher education from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Stephen John Quaye is an assistant professor in the Student Affairs in Higher Education program at Miami University. He is the recipient of the 2009 NASPA Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation of the Year Award for Pedagogy and Racialized Ways of Knowing: Students and Faculty Engage Racial Realities in Postsecondary Classrooms. In addition, he is a 2009 ACPA Emerging Scholar. His research concentrates on difficult dialogues, the influence of race on college campuses, and student learning and development. Stephen earned his BA in psychology from James Madison University, his master’s degree in college student personnel from Miami University, and his PhD in higher education from the Pennsylvania State University.

We lovingly dedicate this book to our families, who are the anchors in our identity stories:

Ann and Brad Jones

Gretchen Metzelaars

Tobi and Frank Abes

Amber Feldman

Shoshana and Benjamin Abes-Feldman


No book is written in complete isolation and without the generosity and help of others. We are both very fortunate to have so many individuals in our lives to whom we can turn for assistance and support on many different levels: from the initial support of our idea; to critical reads of every chapter; to artistic wizardry in graphic design; to collaborations on content, which included making us look smarter than we are; to grounding us in the world of practice; and to extreme patience as our evenings and weekends were taken over by a focus on this book. Our development and writing of this book have benefited enormously from the expertise, support, and encouragement of many.

We are grateful to John Schuh, who took a chance and encouraged us to develop a proposal to Jossey-Bass for this book and then continued to shepherd us through the process. Marylu McEwen offered her usual thorough feedback on an early version of the proposal and continued to encourage us throughout the writing process. We are fortunate to be surrounded by many students who were eager to read our drafts and then offered terrific feedback that kept us grounded in the practicalities of writing for an audience of graduate students. In particular, the suggestions and insights of Mei-Yen Ireland (The Ohio State University) and Kira Newman (Miami University) were incredibly helpful. Claire Robbins (Virginia Tech) read early drafts of several chapters and offered, as always, insightful and thorough feedback. Elisa used a draft of the manuscript in one of her student development classes, so we had an added benefit of incorporating her students’ feedback and comments into the final version of the book. We know the book is much stronger as a result of their comments, confusions, and questions. Israel Martin (Ohio State) worked with us to create all the new graphics for the book. We handed him drawings on pieces of paper that we had scribbled in airports, hotel lobbies, and Elisa’s dining room, and he made them look exquisite—and like scholarly models. We received immensely helpful and useful feedback from three external reviewers. It was clear to us that they read the manuscript carefully and, as a result, offered us thoughtful feedback that strengthened our final version.

We also greatly benefited from our collaborations with David Kasch (University of California, Los Angeles) and Stephen John Quaye (Miami University) in coauthoring two of the chapters. Their expertise in the areas we were tackling, as well as their good humor, enhanced the substantive content of the book as well as our writing process. We are also grateful for the willingness of Derrick Tillman-Kelly, Ian Prieto, Kira Newman, Alex Hirs, and Mei-Yen Ireland to join us in what is probably the most innovative portion of the book—the creation of borderland models of multiple dimensions of identity. They not only agreed to our invitation but also enthusiastically and seriously took on their assignment to each draw their own model using multiple theoretical frameworks.

Finally, taking on a project of this nature exacts a toll on the everyday “routines” of life, if there are such things. During the time we worked on this book, we experienced moving, births, and deaths in our families. Although writing this book was deeply rewarding, it took our time away from the most significant areas of our lives. Gretchen Metzelaars and Amber Feldman were kind and patient (and somehow put up with us!) when we were at our most focused, and cheered us on—thank you. And Shoshana and Benjamin Abes-Feldman reminded us of what is truly most important in life. Maybe one of them will bring our book to show-and-tell at school!


Marcia B. Baxter Magolda

Ruthellen Josselson (1996) wrote, “Identity is what we make of ourselves within a society that is making something of us” (p. 28). Her observation captures the complex interplay of personal and societal contexts in human development. Susan R. Jones and Elisa S. Abes explore this complex interplay in Identity Development of College Students: Advancing Frameworks for Multiple Dimensions of Identity, bringing to readers’ attention just how much context matters in our theorizing about identity development. Their explorations move beyond foregrounding either personal perception or societal power structures to a theoretical borderlands approach that holds both simultaneously. By bringing disparate perspectives into conversation, Susan and Elisa offer a lens that captures the multiple possibilities of identity in the complex and increasingly contentious social context in which we live.

Susan and Elisa not only articulate but also demonstrate the centrality of context in the evolution of identity and theoretical perspectives on identity development. They introduce their own contexts—their intellectual and personal evolution—to show how these contexts frame their research and their beliefs. Robert Kegan (1982) noted that people make meaning “between an event and a reaction to it—the place where the event is privately composed, made sense of, the place where it actually becomes an event for the person” (p. 2). Susan and Elisa share the events they encountered as well as the meaning they made of them to craft their identities. This rare window into their meaning making illuminates how their particular experiences with both marginalization and privilege shape their personal and professional identities.

Following their lead, I offer a glimpse into the meaning making I bring to writing this foreword. I am a strong proponent of the constructivist-developmental tradition, particularly Kegan’s portrait of it, which brings Eriksonian and Piagetian theorizing together to portray self-evolution. I lean toward holistic portrayals of development and become frustrated when contemporary scholars fail to recognize that many earlier scholars (particularly William Perry Jr. and Mary Belenky and colleagues) emphasized the intersections of intellect, identity, and social relations. My twenty-five-year longitudinal study of young adult development, which foregrounds the person as meaning maker, persuades me that a constructivist approach surfaces meaningful possibilities for understanding adult development. As a result of this perspective, I have struggled to understand some scholars’ portrayal of intersectionality, critical race theory, and queer theory as incongruent with constructivism. Although I am aware that a constructivist approach does not intentionally foreground power structures, I view it as open to these possibilities and inclusive of the complex interplay between personal and societal contexts. Conversations with many student development scholars, including Susan and Elisa, reveal that many of us struggle with how to position these various perspectives in our attempt to understand the complexity of development. Because we naturally position our own meaning making and ideologies in the foreground, it is challenging to stand outside of them to assume another vantage point. In this book, Susan and Elisa not only show how this tendency mediates our theorizing but also model a way of meaning making that might help us move beyond our own ideologies.

They do so by illuminating how personal and social contexts shape our meaning making, and by modeling how, if we are aware of these contexts, we can stand outside of them to entertain new possibilities. They traverse the theoretical landscape with precision, staying true to the original conceptualizations of theoretical perspectives in their respective contexts while attempting to bridge them to other concepts as they bring perspectives seen as disparate into dialogue with one another. They offer in-depth yet succinct portraits of constructivism, intersectionality, critical race theory, and queer theory as they explore how to create theoretical borderlands. These portraits enriched my thinking about the intersections of personal meaning making and the centrality of power in identity constructions. Susan and Elisa acknowledge points of departure among these theoretical perspectives as well as multiple perceptions of the value of creating theoretical borderlands.

Within this larger theoretical landscape, Susan and Elisa carefully situate their research on college students’ identity development. I was intrigued to learn the story behind their multiple collaborations to construct the Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity (MMDI) and its reconceptualization, the Reconceptualized Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity (RMMDI). The way they wove the research participants’ stories together with their own stories enriched my understanding of the context from which these models arose as well as their nuances. The book then takes an unusual twist as the authors carefully call their models into question, exploring each new theoretical perspective. By asking questions of themselves and readers, the authors push the boundaries of our understanding and dig deeper into the nuances of the interplay of personal perception and societal power structures. Rather than advancing their ideas as complete, they offer them as incomplete and engage readers in critiquing them from multiple perspectives. By creating visions of intersectional, critical race theory, and queered models of multiple identities, Susan and Elisa model theory construction in progress. By inviting graduate students to construct portraits using a borderland approach to the MMDI, they model entertaining multiple contexts and perspectives in an attempt to understand the complexity of identity development.

The student development literature has evolved as though our intellectual, moral, identity, and relational development are somehow separate entities. Intersectional, critical race, and queer perspectives are often framed in opposition to the psychological perspectives that have dominated theorizing about student development. Although they focus clearly on identity in this volume, Susan and Elisa bring together both psychological and sociological perspectives, honoring the specific contributions of each and using the strengths of particular perspectives to compensate for the shortcomings of others. In contemporary society we often observe polarization rather than blending of perspectives. Susan and Elisa move beyond binaries in their work, inviting readers to entertain new, more complex ways of making meaning that honor divergent perspectives and acknowledge development as holistic and dynamic. As a result, the book reflects the complexity of development and the difficult work of theorizing about it. Yet it is accessible because the authors articulate concepts clearly and offer meaningful questions and activities to support the reader in the theorizing process. Identity Development of College Students is a unique contribution to the student development literature because it models complex theorizing, makes the process transparent, and invites readers to hold their own ideologies alongside others in the effort to understand the multiple dimensions of identity. Kegan (1982) defined being a person as “an ever progressive motion engaged in giving itself a new form” (pp. 7–8). Identity Development of College Students: Advancing Frameworks for Multiple Dimensions of Identity draws readers into this ever progressive motion, and invites us to give ourselves a new form.


In 1978 student development scholars Lee Knefelkamp, Carole Widick, and Clyde Parker wrote in their New Directions for Student Services text Applying New Developmental Findings, “In the past two decades important changes have occurred in the field” (p. vii), and then went on to make the case for the centrality of the study of “college students as students” (p. viii) to the field of higher education and student affairs. Their text, in many ways a precursor to the greatly expanded and highly regarded Student Development in College, first published in 1998 and now in its second edition (see Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton, & Renn, 2010), was the first to classify student development theories into theory clusters (for example, psychosocial, cognitive, maturity, typology, and person-environment). For many years, the primary researcher and proponent of psychosocial theory focused on college students (building on the work of Erik Erikson) was Arthur Chickering. His work was published in the seminal text Education and Identity (1969) and then revised in a second edition with Linda Reisser in 1993. One would be hard pressed to locate anyone who has completed a higher education and student affairs graduate preparation program who is not at least minimally acquainted with Chickering’s Seven Vectors of Development.

Although many would argue that the seven vectors have withstood the test of time, newer conceptualizations of identity development now exist that are useful to understanding the construction of identity among today’s diverse college students, who bring to campuses increasingly complex and multifaceted ways of constructing identities and presenting themselves. And just as Knefelkamp and colleagues suggested in 1978, “Important changes have occurred in the field” (p. vii) in the past two decades. Among these changes is the focus on both socially constructed identities and holistic development. Viewing identities as socially constructed locates identity development within larger historical, social, political, and cultural contexts and suggests that identity does not exist outside contingent social realities—and therefore that it is constantly changing amid shifting contexts rather than fixed and stable. Interest in identities as socially constructed led to research, theories, and models on specific identities, such as racial identity, cultural identity, gender identity, ethnic identity, and sexual identity, to name several among myriad possibilities. The focus on holistic development reflects an interest in getting at both a more comprehensive and complete portrayal of the whole student as well as the complexities of identity when considering multiple dimensions of identity (for example, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, social class, religion and spirituality, and ability) and different domains of development (for example, cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal).

Since the publication of the second edition of Education and Identity (Chickering & Reisser, 1993), no text has been presented that explicitly addresses these newer conceptualizations of the holistic nature of college student identity development by integrating a focus on socially constructed identities. Our aim in this book is to concentrate explicitly on college student identity development, tracing the evolution of identity theory from the work of Erikson and Chickering to newer conceptualizations of identity. This focus is the subject of one chapter in the second edition of Student Development in College (Evans et al., 2010). Other texts often present identity theories in tandem with many other theories, and not in relation to one another. Further, social identities are typically treated discretely rather than holistically, with a focus on specific populations and the stage-related process that leads to the internalization of race, for example, into one’s sense of self. Finally, those who focus on holistic development (for example, self-authorship), highlighting a process of development that leads from following external formulas to generating an internal foundation, do not explicitly address social identities (Jones, 2009; Torres, Jones, & Renn, 2009). That external-to-internal approach does not often acknowledge the influence of larger structures of inequality. In this book, Identity Development of College Students: Advancing Frameworks for Multiple Dimensions of Identity, we focus on what we consider to be an integrative approach to identity, one that treats identity as socially constructed and located in larger structures of privilege and oppression. Our approach presumes the presence of multiple social identities; that is, each individual possesses social identities, such as race, social class, gender, and sexuality, whether or not these identities are personally meaningful. However, we do not address the particularities of each social identity as a developmental process. Rather, we treat social identities as integrally related and a reflection of larger social structures. To get at such a treatment of social identities we focus on several theoretical frameworks, including intersectionality, critical race theory, and queer theory, each of which represents departures from the more typical psychological and constructivist approaches to the study and understanding of identity.

Drawing on both the foundational scholarship and the latest research on identity, Identity Development of College Students provides an expanded exploration and discussion of this core area of student development theory, research, and practice. As Vasti Torres, Susan R. Jones, and Kristen Renn (2009) asserted in the fiftieth anniversary issue of the Journal of College Student Development, “Student development scholars and student affairs professionals should be open to new theoretical approaches and to exploring new combinations of well-known theories” (p. 593). No one text responds to this call, despite the need for such a text among faculty who teach student development courses and practitioners who apply theory to practice in their direct work with college students. Indeed, our aim was to produce a book that we would want to adopt in our student development theory courses. We hope that this text fills this void.

More specifically, the primary purpose of this book is to describe contemporary perspectives on the identity development of college students in the United States, with an emphasis on multiple social identities. Locating this focus in the historical foundational work of Erikson and Chickering, we trace the evolution of the study of identity in relation to contemporary research and theoretical frameworks. We situate these contemporary perspectives within our holistic description of identity that portrays identity as the intersection of context, personal characteristics, and social identities. As part of doing so, we explore the nature of context, including inequitable power structures, and how context influences and is influenced by multiple social identities. To accomplish this goal, we use our research on multiple identities as a springboard, including the ways in which we have used critical theoretical frameworks (intersectionality, critical race theory, and queer theory) to analyze these relationships. By tracing the evolution of our research, we hope we have created a comprehensive text that enables the discussion of both foundational and newer approaches to understanding identity development and the construction of identity. An outcome of our approach is that the reader is also provided with an example of the evolution of theory development and the intersection of who we are as researchers, our own identities, and theories we are creating. To that end, one could read this book both for the specific content and also as a mirror to our evolving understandings about identity and the identity construction process.

To accomplish our purposes, Identity Development of College Students is organized into four sections. Each section is introduced by an overview of the chapters in that section, and in the second, third, and fourth sections there are interludes, or pauses from the more academic discussion of content, in which we write about and reflect on how our own stories intersect with the content in the section. The inspiration for including these interludes came from the writing of Robert Rhoads and Patti Lather. In Rhoads’s book Community Service and Higher Learning (1997), he begins each chapter with a narrative from his childhood. He wrote of his approach,

We all have a sense of self that we bring to all we do. As we know from our own lived experience, the self is much more than simply a reflection of our present-day circumstances and current feelings. We each have deeply textured social histories, all of which contribute to who we are as a person. (p. 13)

In a book about identity, it seemed particularly important to make our own social histories and identities more explicit rather than distancing ourselves from our topic of interest. After all, our interest in the subject of identity came from our own identity explorations, challenges, and negotiations. In her book Getting Lost, Lather (2007) incorporates interludes after each chapter as a way to complicate and elaborate on the ideas contained within. Our interludes provide a glimpse into how our thinking has evolved over time and the identity issues with which we have wrestled, both in our research and in our own lives.

We recognize that there are trade-offs in our approach. By focusing on the larger construct of identity and differing theoretical perspectives for investigating and understanding identity, we do not address the identity dynamics for specific groups, and the differences within these groups. That is, you will not find in this book detailed discussions of, for example, racial identity theory, ethnic identity theory, or sexual identity theory. Other texts and book chapters address these specific theories and models, and we suggest that these theories serve as an important foundation for understanding identities and make an important contribution in the evolution of identity scholarship. Still, because of our focus on the theoretical frameworks of intersectionality, critical race theory, and queer theory, identity dimensions of race, social class, sexuality, and gender are foregrounded. Although these frameworks may be applied, with caution and judgment, to other identity dimensions, such as ability and faith, our examples come less from those dimensions than they do from dimensions more specifically congruent with intersectionality, critical race theory, and queer theory. You will also find in this book a discussion of the larger construct of social identities and the evolution of thinking about multiple identities. We do not mean to suggest a return to theories that essentialize specific groups or to imply that identity is the same for all individuals. Instead, we hope to provide a discussion of overarching concepts that may then be applied to particular groups in a way that captures the complexity of identity and the nuances of the identity construction process, rather than distilling the process down to a single story (Adichie, 2009).

Another potential trade-off in our approach comes from the use of our own research as the jumping-off point for our examination of identity in this book. By drawing on our own work, we are returning to data and literature that some may perceive as old. However, we decided on this direction for two important reasons. The first is that the literature we cite is indeed the scholarship that was available to us at the time of our original research, which serves as the foundation for this book. This is not to say that this book is full of only very old material. In fact, it includes, we believe, both a sophisticated treatment of the foundational scholarship on which the study of identity is built as well as the newest thinking about identity. Second, and related to this last point, we find that some scholars and practitioners today are quick to dismiss what seems to them to be antiquated and irrelevant scholarship—sometimes including foundational scholarship. This dismissal is often done without reading the scholarship that is being passed over or without a good understanding of that body of literature. So to that end, our incorporation of what we perceive to be foundational scholarship, including primary sources, in this study of identity represents our belief that we need to understand these theories and constructs, both because much of the subsequent work on identity is anchored in this early scholarship and because much of what these foundational theories convey is still relevant and applicable today. We now turn to a brief description of each chapter in the book.

Section One includes two chapters that broadly address situating identity. In Chapter One we situate ourselves in this work, and lay the groundwork for the interludes that follow. We include our own stories, which narrate how it is that we became drawn to an abiding scholarly interest in the study of identity. We think this is important because who we are influences what we study and how we go about the research process; it also illuminates both our areas of focus and strength as well as what we might miss or remain silent about because of our identities and lived experiences. In Chapter Two we situate the study of identity in different disciplines as well as in higher education and student development scholarship, paying particular attention to the psychosocial tradition in identity theory. Chapter Two offers an evolutionary picture of the study of identity and concludes with the more recent emphasis on identities as socially constructed, which provides the underpinnings for the chapters that follow.

The three chapters in Section Two focus on the development and reconceptualization of the Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity (MMDI), which serves as the conceptual framework for the book. Chapter Three introduces the three strands of scholarship that anchored the original study from which the MMDI was created: foundational student development theories, particularly those with a focus on identity; identity theories focused on underrepresented groups; and those theories conceptualizing identities as socially constructed, with particular attention to early work on multiple identities. We also discuss two additional works that informed the model, the Multidimensional Identity Model and the constructs of personal and social identities. Chapter Three also provides an introduction to the study itself, including profiles of its participants. In Chapter Four the MMDI is introduced, with particular attention given to the central elements of the model: the core, multiple social identities, the relationship of social identities to the core and identity salience, and contextual influences. In Chapter Five we present the Reconceptualized Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity (RMMDI), along with details about the study on which this reconceptualization is based. Because the RMMDI integrates a meaning-making element into the model, the scholarship of Kegan and Marcia Baxter Magolda is discussed in relation to the study design and findings. These chapters encourage readers to consider their own self-perceived identities in relation to the various elements of the MMDI and RMMDI, both as a way to apply their own experiences to the models and to ascertain these models’ strengths and limitations.

In Section Three we discuss three critical theoretical frameworks that represent a departure from the more typical constructivist approaches to studying identity. Chapter Six addresses intersectionality, Chapter Seven critical race theory, and Chapter Eight queer theory. In each of these chapters we provide detail about the historical origins, core tenets, and characteristics of each framework, referring to primary sources. We also present examples of how these frameworks have been applied in higher education and student affairs research. Finally, we discuss each of these frameworks in relation to the MMDI. We focus here on the MMDI because we consider the RMMDI as the first extension of the MMDI. In applying each framework to the central elements of the MMDI we ask, “How would the MMDI and the RMMDI look different if [theoretical framework] were used? How might each framework shift an understanding of the elements of the MMDI and the RMMDI?” We then present a redrawn model that we created by applying the framework. We redrew the models with some trepidation (discussed more fully in the introduction to Section Three) because we do not believe that there is one right way to capture these complex ideas. However, our focus on these theoretical frameworks and their relevance to understanding identity presented us with several important ideas in relation to rethinking the models. Our redrawn models are designed to capture these ideas rather than to declare a definitive Critical Race Theory Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity, for example.

In Section Four we tie together the concepts illuminated in the book through two chapters that address the application of these ideas theoretically, empirically, and practically, and then look to the future in terms of new directions for theory building and understanding identity. In Chapter Nine we provide published examples of the application of the MMDI and RMMDI to frameworks for scholarly research, for theoretical investigations, and in practice settings. We also explore the possibilities for applying the three critical theoretical frameworks in practice, and address how doing so might shift the nature of student affairs practice to one that more explicitly considers the role of power dynamics in educational practice. Here we provide several examples of educational contexts that promote critical examination of self and other. Our aim is not to supply specific blueprints for practice, but instead to introduce the paradigmatic shift required to integrate critical theoretical frameworks into practice and the potential outcomes when successful. In Chapter Ten we bring together the theoretical perspectives of constructivism, intersectionality, critical race theory, and queer theory to create theoretical borderlands, an analytic place that draws from multiple perspectives, suggesting that no one perspective is enough for a sophisticated understanding of the complexities of identity. In doing so, the strengths and limitations of each approach are highlighted, particularly in relation to the MMDI, as are the benefits of using theoretical perspectives in combination. Also in Chapter Ten we set the stage for future directions in the area of identity scholarship by providing five examples of a borderland analysis. We invited graduate students who had some prior knowledge of the three critical theoretical perspectives to each draw their own model in a way that illustrates how they would put these concepts and elements together to represent their own lived experiences. We use these borderland models to discuss future directions for research on college students and identity.

In an effort to ensure the usefulness of this text, we conclude each chapter with a list of potential discussion questions and activities that may be used in a classroom setting, either for individual self-reflection or among small groups. We “tested” many of these questions and activities with students in Elisa’s student development theory class as we were writing the book, and with graduate students who had some background in the material covered in these chapters. Their feedback was invaluable as we sought to create a treatment of identity that was both sophisticated and accessible.

We end this preface to the book with a favorite quote of ours. This particular quote exemplifies for us what we hope is a significant contribution of this book—that is, a lessening of the strain of this battle to understand self and other by acknowledging that identities are complex, contested, multifaceted, and ever shifting as a result of larger structures of power and privilege. To present these multiple factors at the forefront of analysis and consideration brings us closer to a more authentic conceptualization of identity.

To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

e. e. cummings, 1958 (quoted in Firmage, 1965, p. 335)

Susan R. Jones, Columbus, Ohio
Elisa S. Abes, Oxford, Ohio

March 2013

The Jossey-Bass Higher Education Series