Social Identities & Graduate School

Social Identities


Social Identity is a portion of the self that derives from belonging to a social group. The concept comes from social identity theory. In general, there are 8+ social identity categories that are recognized. The “+” is in recognition that there are many more social identities than the classic 8 covers. These identities confer more than just an identity; they also can indicate social and economic outcomes, predictors for success, what rights may be granted to that social identity, and other ways in which institutional oppression has stacked the deck against the group. Particularly for graduate students, our social identities and the identities grad school confers on us can interact in meaningful ways, positively or negatively. Exploring the ways in which these identities interact is one of the keys to being an effective ally to graduate and professional students.

The 8 social identities are:

  • Race/color
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Socioeconomic Status
  • Ability
  • Gender and Sex
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Ethnicity


“+” Identities:

  • Interest/Hobby groups
  • Nationality
  • Common Experiences
  • Others that you identify with


In this week’s seminar, we will ask three questions:

  • What social identities are important to you?
  • What social identities make an impact on your graduate student experience?
  • How might we support graduate students who feel unsupported due to their social identities?


We will explore these questions and practice skills learned from the first two seminar session which are dialogue/inclusive language and de-stress techniques.

Next week, we will look at graduate and professional student specific identities, such as identified typically by the type of degree you are pursuing, how you receive financial support, domestic/international status, and other ways we divide ourselves. We will work on defining those identities and how they can be an advantage or disadvantage to obtaining your graduate degree. Lastly, we’ll look at how our graduate student identities impact our lives.