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Word of the Week

Word of the Week
Identity Dissonance: A condition affecting students when they try to reconcile their new professional identities with their preexisting personal identities.

Dr. Carrie Yang Costello, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, conducted a fascinating study observing first-year law students socializing at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law and its School of Social Welfare.

She found that students who were minority, female, disabled or poor were held back by their inability to acquire appropriate professional identities as easily as White men.

“In the legal culture, you have to adopt a different way of being, a different vocabulary and way to carry yourself,” Jasmine, a Filipino law student, told Yang Costello in an interview. “When I go home, if I act the way I do here … my cousins say, ‘You’re kind of Whitewashed.’”

Yang Costello finds that White men are more likely to acquire appropriate professional identities swiftly, with little inner conflict, which could help explain their disproportionate success in the society at large.

To learn more, check out Yang Costello’s book: Personal Identity Crisis: Race, Class, Gender and Success in Professional Schools (Vanderbilt University Press, 2006).

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