The term at-promise gained prominence as a strength-based way to refer to students from minoritized backgrounds that contrasted from deficit-laden terms like at-risk. In this scholarly paper, we argue that beyond avoiding an obvious deficit categorization, adoption of the term at-promise has potential to influence scholarship in higher education research by centering the need for systemic change. Building on prior literature on at-promise student terminology and conceptual frameworks of funds of knowledge, community cultural wealth, and validation theory, we suggest that the at-promise phrase offers two important contributions to higher education. First, by emphasizing interconnectivity and shared experiences across systems of power, the at-promise designation can be used to build coalitions amongst minoritized groups and advocate for broader systemic change. Second, the term promise reflects a societal commitment to improving educational access and retention that is integral to the social contract of higher education as a public good. Thus, use of at-promise can center the need for systemic change, but only when done with intentionality to avoid conflation of minoritized groups.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Genia M. Bettencourt, Lauren N. Irwin, Ralitsa Todorova, Ronald E. Hallett, Zoë B. Corwin