Diminishing Returns at Corporate U: Chinese Undergraduates and Composition’s Activist Legacy

  • Tom McNamara California State University, Fresno
Keywords: Chinese undergraduates, international students, corporatization, race, segregation, advocacy


This article draws on a qualitative study of Chinese undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of the top US enrollers of international students from China. Throughout, I study these students’ efforts to secure returns on what they described as an expensive and uncertain educational investment, often by asserting their power as consumers of US higher education. In particular, I argue that their struggles against segregation make visible broader changes in how student agency is made available in our corporate universities, prompting composition scholars to adapt the field’s tradition of student advocacy to our moment of fiscal turmoil and shifting institutional priorities.

Author Biography

Tom McNamara, California State University, Fresno
Tom McNamara is assistant professor of English and Writing Across the Curriculum coordinator at California State University, Fresno. There, he teaches courses in advanced composition and English Education, and his research examines race and language difference in college writing classrooms.