The Effects of Social Media and Hashtag Activism on Enhancing Student Voice to Create Institutional Curriculum Changes

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Michelle Nguyen, Class of 2019


College-aged students are often at the forefront of social movements. Students are commonly the people who use their voices to fight for changes at the institutions of higher education that they are attending. Various social media outlets, specifically Twitter, have allowed these students to organize social protests online through hashtag activism. Hashtag activism allows individuals to connect to other individuals protesting for a similar cause through a common hashtagged word or phrase. I have been an undergraduate student at Texas Christian University (TCU) for the past four years, and I have seen the ways in which hashtag activism has laid the foundation for institutional changes, particularly in the curriculum, to be made. In this thesis, I examine how students who participated in the hashtag movements #BeingMinorityAtTCU and/or #DearTCU were able to show the TCU administration glimpses of their personal stories through the public venue of social media, creating a pressure that led TCU administration, faculty, and staff to shift the core curriculum to include a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) overlay. This overlay requires students to take a DEI-focused course that will encourage conversations about identity and how to be a leader in this diverse country and world that we live in. 

Comments from Mentors

Wise beyond her years, Michelle Nguyen was an ecxceptional undergraduate student. She brought a commitment to social justice to her classes and co-curricular activities. I am impressed with Michelle's ability to understand theory, to consider history, and to take action. Her actions, along with her colleagues and classmates on this campus, have been transformative. She often pushed conversations to greated degrees of sophistication, which created pathways for the TCU community to explore. Working with Michelle on her honors thesis that chronicled #DearTCU was a joy. I applaud Michelle for going to Indonesia to start her Fulbright fellowship this past summer. 

--M. Francyne Huckaby


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College of Education