Maximilian Schuster Receives NASPA Research Award for Campus Climate Study

Maximilian Schuster, a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, was selected for the 2021 Excellence in Research Award by the NASPA Orientation, Retention, and Transition Knowledge Community.

Schuster received the award for his article “‘An Experience Unlike Any Other’: The Experiences of First-Year Students with Minoritized Identities with Campus Climate During the 2016 Presidential Election,” which appeared in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education in June 2020.

With more than 15,000 members representing over 1,200 institutions, NASPA is the world’s largest organization for college student affairs professionals.

NASPA’s research award recognizes exemplary research that practitioners can use to improve student services in the areas of orientation, transition, and retention within higher education institutions.

“It’s an honor to be recognized with this distinction from NASPA, the leading professional association for student affairs,says Schuster.

Schuster will be honored during the 2021 virtual NASPA Annual Conference, which is scheduled from March 17-21.

Schuster, an assistant professor of practice in higher education, is the program coordinator of the Master of Education in Higher Education program. Known for its commitment to social justice, the program prepares students for a range of career pathways within higher education and has a near 100% job placement rate for graduates.

Schuster is a graduate himself, having earned his PhD in Higher Education from the school in 2017.

His award-winning paper examined a tumultuous time on college campuses across America: the 2016 presidential election

Using a campus climate framework, the qualitative study reported on the experiences of 17 first-year students with minoritized identities amid this divisive political context. The students, who included people of color and LGBTQ+ students, were from an urban university within a battleground state.

The study found that students with minoritized identities experienced increased hostilities within this political context. To contend with this negativity, the students engaged in forms of activism. Their activism allowed them to rebuff the hostilities they were experiencing, raise awareness of their own identity, and foster stronger peer connections.

“This study showed how the national political context actually permeated campus climates in ways that were acutely felt by students with minoritized identities. My article helps practitioners and educators in thinking about the impact of this political context on campus and in fostering campus environments that champion students with minoritized identities,” says Schuster.

While prior research has explored the transition to college on student identity, Schuster’s paper examined it through the crucible of the 2016 presidential election.

Among the takeaways for school administrators:

  • Institutional leaders should recognize that societal and political forces can significantly and suddenly impact campus climate
  • Faculty and student services staff should integrate political discourse and social justice education into their institutions
  • Institutional leaders should proactively plan for political speakers whose visits are aimed to stoke fear and uncertainty for minoritized populations

Schuster was previously selected for the 2019-20 NASPA Emerging Faculty Leader Academy. The one-year program is for early-career faculty in student affairs and higher education graduate programs.

“I’m grateful to share my research findings with this award and represent the Pitt Education community,” says Schuster

Learn More

The Master of Education in Higher Education program at the Pitt School of Education is currently accepting applications. Contact to learn more.