Shame is a complex and powerful emotion comprised of cultural expectations, societal norms, and identity associations, which has the capacity to challenge individual notions of identity and influence behavior. This Independent Study investigates how students at The College of Wooster understand, experience, and navigate shame and analyzes how past and present experiences of shame manifest themselves in students becoming crucial components of their identities. It also explores the relationship between the individual and the institution in order to understand how shame is exerted interpersonally, institutionally, and structurally. The thesis focused on three major themes: how students define and conceptualize shame, how shame shapes identity, and the role shame plays in the small college context. Using original data from 644 surveys and 16 in-depth interviews, it was found that shame is conceptualized differently for each student, but notions of inadequacy and questions of worthiness were crucial to all and that shame plays a very specific and unique role in this environment because of the small student body, relatively isolated geographic location, residential atmosphere, rigorous academic workload, and constant social interaction. Ultimately, this study found that shame is important component of The College of Wooster student experience and greatly influences students’ ability to thrive.


Guillén, Jennifer


Sociology and Anthropology



Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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