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Table 2: Forms of Institutional Support & Kinds of Institutional Agents


Forms of Institutional Support Institutional Agent: Roles


The Provision of Personal and Positional Resource Agent

Institutional agents possess or have access to two major categories of institutional resources.
Positional resources are those that are linked to an advantageous position within a hierarchically-
arranged organization, network, institution, or social system. Unlike positional resources,
personal resources are in the possession of individual actors who can use or transmit these
resources without needing to receive specific authorization or be accountable to other actors or
to the rules inherent in certain positions within an organization (Lin, 2001, p. 42).

Transmission of Key Funds of Knowledge Knowledge Agent

Emphasis is on those funds of knowledge (as resources) most associated with navigating
through, and ascension within, the educational system; such support includes the process of
implicit and explicit socialization into institutional discoursesthose which regulate
communication, interaction, and resource access in the educational system and other middle-
class and high-status institutional spheres (Gee, 1989; Stanton-Salazar, 1997; Stanton-Salazar,
Vsquez, & Mehan, 2000). Such support includes a critical interrogation that such discourses
are not culturally universalistic, but rather arbitraryi.e., pertaining to the culture of the
dominant classes (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977). Such interrogation conveys that although the
ways of institutional life (within mainstream society) are encoded in the discourse and ethos of
the dominant group, through collective empowerment, such discourses have been historically
contested and altered.

A knowledge agent fulfills the role of institutional agent through the provision and critical
interrogation of various funds of knowledge associated with ascension within an exclusionary
educational system and other key institutional domains controlled by the dominant classes (e.g.,
immigration rights and procedures). With regard to the educational system, I place emphasis on
non-subject matter knowledge essential to educational mobility and academic success, given the
current power structure and stratification system (examples include knowledge about course
requirements for admission eligibility to different universities, financial aid and scholarships).

Stanton-Salazar, R. D. (2011) A social capital framework for the study of institutional agents and of
the empowerment of low-status youth. Youth & Society 43 (3), 1066-1109.

Evaluation, Advice & Guidance Advisor

This type of support involves the agent in the process of gathering information, co-assessing
problems and helping the individual [student] make appropriate and effective decisions related to
ascension within the education system.

Advocacy Advocate

This form of support entails intervening on behalf of the individual (or group of individuals), for
the purpose of protecting or promoting their interests and rights within the organization or

An advocate fulfills the role of institutional agent by actively advocating on behalf of a
student or young person, sometimes helping them navigate school procedures leading to
achievement-oriented resources and opportunities. The advocate acts to intercede or defend the
right of the student to have access to such resources; they can also intercede when students
commit minor infractions, and where sanctions or penalties may interfere with academic

Network Development Networking Coach

This form of support entails knowledge and training leading to skillful networking and help-
seeking behavior; e.g., knowledge of how to negotiate with, and access resources from, various
gatekeepers and agents within and outside of the school environment (Baker, 2000); knowledge
of how to develop supportive/cooperative ties with peers who are well integrated in the schools
high-status academic and extracurricular circles (Stanton-Salazar, 2004).


Integrating Actions Integrative Agent

This form of support entails the process of coordinating a student or young persons social
integration in certain high-status networks and professional venues (e.g., professional
association, science fair). Here the student is able to participate in the associations activities
and engage those individuals who are at the top of their field. Such integrative experiences serve
to expose the student [young individual] to knowledge funds and career opportunities that may
not be available elsewhere.

An integrative agent is not only aware of the empowering socialization experiences derived
from participating in high-status networks and associations, but also that such networks and
associations are key sites where networking, help seeking, and reciprocal exchanges of
institutional support are the norm, and where bridging and brokering are typical
organizational activities. Such sites also provide excellent opportunities for network
development, and for providing cultural exposure, as articulated above. An integrative agent
also fulfills the role of institutional agent when incorporating student[s] into their very own

professional network, which often include connecting the student[s] with the agents own cadre
of students and mentees.

Guided Cultural Exposure Cultural Guide

This form of support entails guided exposure and introduction to institutional domains and
sociocultural worlds, their key functions, identification of key agents, sanctioned conventions of
communication, etc. Guided cultural exposure is an essential part of an empowered socialization
process, a set of experiences by which youth people learn to negotiate, and participate in,
multiple, simultaneously existing, and often conflicting sociocultural worlds (Boykin, 1986).
Each world is characterized by particular values and beliefs, expectations, actions, and
emotional responses familiar to insiders (Phelan, et al., 1993).


Program Development Program Developer

This kind of activity entails developing a program that embeds students/youth in a system of
agents, resources, and opportunities.

Lobbying Lobbyist
This kind of activity entails lobbying an administrative or organizational entity for resources to
be directed toward recruiting and supporting a targeted group of students/youth.

Political Action/Advocacy Political Advocate
Just as an institutional agent may advocate for an individual student or youth, they may also join
an organized group of institutional agents in advocating for social policies aimed at providing
needed resources and enhancing social justice (Hepworth, et al., p. 31).


Recruiting Recruiter

This form of support entails actively recruiting students/youth into program, department, etc.
Often involves interfacing with community organizations or educational institutions.

Bridging Bridging Agent

This form of support entails the process of acting as a bridge to gate-keepers, to key institutional
agents, and to exclusive social networks and high-status organizations and institutionse.g.,
university campuses.

A bridging agent acts as a human bridge to gate-keepers, to other actors committed to serving
as institutional agents, and to key social networks; the focus here is on person to person
introductions and connections. In order to make sound connections, such bridging agents must

have a well amplified social network, active connections with various key alters, and a good
knowledge of the resources that these alters possess (see Hepworth, et al., 1997, p. 27)

Institutional Brokering Institutional Broker
(as an amplification of bridging)
This form of support entails assuming an activist role as an intermediary between two or more
parties in negotiating agreements, and in accessing valued institutional resources on behalf of
individual/client. It also entails steering the individual toward existing services and academic

An institutional broker assumes an intermediary role between two or more parties in
negotiating agreements, and in accessing valued institutional resources on behalf of the
individual/client/student. This agent also steers people toward existing social services and
academic programs that may be of service to them, usually through referrals or through direct
introductions to organizational personnel (see Heffernan, et al., 1997, pp. 27-28). Ideally, the
agent must have active ties to people working in these organizations and programs; equally
important, agents must have a thorough knowledge of the resources within the relevant
contextsbe it the school district, university campus, the school system, and/or the community.
The depth and quality of the support also entails knowledge regarding the quality of resources,
services and opportunities provided by the organizations and programs within the relevant

Coordinating (as an extension of brokering) Coordinator:

This form of institutional support entails assessing the needs of the individual [student,
beneficiary], coordinating the provision of needed support and services, and working directly
with the beneficiary and service provider to ensure that the support or resources are tailored to
his or her needs.

Often times, a young person or student lacks the ability, help-seeking orientation, knowledge, or
resources to follow through on a referral to systems of support (social services, academic
programs, etc.). In these cases, the institutional agent takes on the role of coordinator
somewhat similar to the role of case manager in the social work field (Hepworth, et al., p. 27).
The agent as coordinator assumes responsibility for assessing the needs of the beneficiary,
coordinating the provision of needed support, and working directly with the beneficiary to ensure
that the support or resources are tailored to his or her needs. In assessing the needs of the
beneficiary (i.e., informal client), the coordinator may seek expert knowledge from professionals
or colleagues who possess high levels of expertise relative to certain types of problems (e.g.,
substance abuse, child maltreatment, admission to an elite college, financial aid) (Hepworth, et
al., p. 30). From the perspective of social capital theory (Lin, 2001), the quality of social
capitalwhen it emerges from the direct support of the agent--sometimes depends on the agent
consulting with experts and other knowledgeable agents before providing the support to ego.
Effectively seeking and receiving good consultationindeed, fulfilling the role of agent as
coordinator--depends upon the social networks, social capital, and networking skills of the