What does it mean to have “equal access” to higher education in different cultures?
Kureem Nugent ’18, recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship intends to spend the next year answering just that. He said his experience at a small liberal arts college as a first-generation student will lead him to explore how cultural capital plays a role in the path to higher education. “I plan to investigate how different cultural experiences contribute to students’ personal development and academic success,” Nugent said.
Watson Fellows are awarded a $30,000 stipend to pursue a “year of independent, purposeful exploration” abroad. Hamilton has four recipients this year.
In his project titled Cultivating Cultural Capital: Exploring the Path to College, Nugent will experience first-hand how students in very different cultures make their way to and through college. The sociology major plans to explore what cultural capital looks like, how it is developed, and how students with distinct cultural capital prepare to enter higher education.
During his Watson year, he will travel to Chile, Finland, Germany, and Japan, different cultures with varied college admission approaches.
Hometown: Jamaica, N.Y.
High School: Clara Barton High School for Health Professions
Campus Activities: Adirondack Adventure trip leader, a member of the Brothers Organization, WHCL radio co-host, and Delta Chi president
“I’m excited to visit Finland, an economically stable country, and Chile, an economically developing country, to observe how cultural capital differs according to each country’s social class stratification,” Nugent said. He’ll also travel to two countries “that range regarding ethnic backgrounds: Japan, an ethnically homogenous country, and Germany, a country dealing with the incorporation of immigrant populations, to investigate the complexities in students’ development of cultural capital.”
Nugent said in each country he visits, he’ll ask the questions: What does preparation for college look like? How is it cultivated in high schools, after school, through educational organizations, and in families? What is the dominant cultural capital? How does cultural capital differ within a country, and in different countries? Does cultural capital play a role in inequality? How do educational organizations address inequality in higher education?
Nugent said he’s “grateful for the Watson Fellowship as I will have the opportunity to pursue my interest in higher education on a global scale, as well as engage directly with people and their cultures. I'm really excited to live in various home-stays across the world and to challenge myself to be at least conversational in Spanish, German, Finnish and Japanese.”
He said feels his time at Hamilton as a first-generation student “motivates me to step outside my comfort zone and carry out this project. My studies in the classroom, my relationships with the Hamilton community and my involvement with the Opportunity Programs and the Admission Office have continuously allowed me to challenge myself and my worldview and I'm ready to do the same off the Hill,” he explained.
Nugent spent the spring 2017 semester studying in Hamilton’s Academic Year in Spain. He is an Admissions Office senior intern, and Sadove support staff manager for the Student Activities office.
Nugent is the Class of 2018 senior gift co-chair, an 1812 leadership ambassador for the Hamilton’s Advancement office, and served as Hamilton’s Student Assembly president from January 2016-January 2017.