Peering from the Outside: Supporting HBCU legacy

IMG_5547

Shalander Samuels, Ed.D.

As a high school teacher, I have noticed that a few of my students, many of which are sophomores, have been bringing in college letters from universities that are beginning to recruit them. At my school, we are intentional with celebrating each time a letter is received. Yet, I have not seen a single letter from an HBCU for any of my students. Although it is great that students are being contacted and prompted to think about college so early, I could not help but think about how HBCUs are not reaching out to these students. PWIs are hard at work, they are sending recruiters, sending reminder letters, and they are advertising frequently. Students have enthusiastically shared how they are looking forward to the institutions that have remained in constant contact with them since the beginning of their sophomore years. I can’t help but ask HBCUs, where are the recruitment letters? Where are the guest speakers and advertisements to the high school students informing them of the option to choose the type of university they would like? Consider the many students who are unfamiliar with the wealth of knowledge and positive experiences HBCUs provide. With the current socio-political climate, now is the time for HBCUs to step up to the plate and begin reaching out to younger students to encourage them to consider their institution as an option.

I could sit and add to the persecution of HBCUs, as is popular these days. Many are aware of the lacking resources at these institutions, and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge institutional structural challenges that deter such recruitment efforts to exist. However, I do believe that there are innovative and cost-efficient ways to best share the mission and vision of these illustrious institutions with younger students.

Let’s consider the following:

Social Media Engagement: What about taking advantage of and leveraging technology by recruiting through the use of social media? In this digital era, it is much easier, and cheaper to advertise and reach out to high school students via digital media platforms. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat all give quick access to eager eyes and ears, this is an easy way to connect. For example, how could YouTube be used to micro-target students? Using social media as a method for recruiting can be beneficial to HBCUs as they strive to educate the next generation of Black students.

Alumni Outreach: HBCUs should reconsider the use of alumni who are willing to support the schools through their own personal organizations, giving their personal time, and those willing to make connections with school districts and other K-12 systems. Many secondary schools allow guest speakers to conduct “teach-ins” as well as volunteer opportunities in middle and high schools. These can be opportunities for alumni to share the mission of your institution and encourages former HBCU students to be ambassadors to their alma maters, further expanding the institutional reach.

Events for Freshmen and Sophomores: Developing events specifically for high school sophomores and freshmen, even middle school students, such as a “visit a HBCU day” (as most universities already target juniors and seniors) could widen the knowledge and interest in such schools. Moreover, some middle schools already have college trips each year as well as end-of-year trips in and out of state; HBCUs could be a targeted effort. Additionally, considering how your institution could partner with specific K-12 organizations to develop a more organic relationship is also another way to connect young students to the mission of your institution. Although higher education is a different entity than K-12, the two entities could further collaborate and establish innovative initiatives and programming that could potentially increase funding opportunities, particularly aimed at high school freshmen and sophomores. There are a myriad of summer programs that allow minority students to experience HBCUs. For example, Jackson State University in Mississippi hosts at least four K-12 summer programs, including a program related to STEM. Howard University also has a pre-college summer program. In 2015 the Verizon Innovative Learning Program for Minority Males was launched to support HBCUs and Hispanic Serving Institutions further expose younger males of color to new technology and mentorship. Purdue University and Florida A&M University also engages in programs for students from grades 10-12. Many of these programs are over the summer and some of these programs have costs, so grants should be sought to deter the financial strain on the students and to further eliminate financial obstacles to HBCU matriculation. Extending these innovative ideas yearlong would also be beneficial for all students.  A direct focus from policymakers and administrators in funding and supporting with necessary resources would encourage and motivate other institutions and bring positive attention to the impact of these universities.

A friend of mine declared strongly that I had no “dog in the fight” of HBCUs, as I never attended one. She, a graduate of and a strong advocate for these colleges, always spoke highly of her knowledge and HBCU experience. For a minute, I thought maybe she was right, but I later realized that I too had a voice; I am just offering a different perspective. I feel completely convicted in my thoughts of supporting HBCUs, as I would like the future of my children to be filled with the knowledge and experiences associated with such legacies. In order for this to happen, HBCUs must begin thinking innovatively about how to best recruit the next generation of students.

Shalander Samuels is currently a high school English teacher and adjunct professor. Her research interests include English Speakers of Other Languages’ (ESOL) achievement and gaps in learning as well as creating unique literacy intervention programs in majority-minority communities. She is keen on developing varying ways to connect higher education and grades K-12 research, especially in urban areas. Shalander has written educational materials and presented at national and international conferences, she has also coordinated research forums that focus on literacy.

 

 

 

 

Preparation and Community: Reflections from an NCCU Alumnus

Will Headshot

Will Anyu

Recently a few colleagues and I sparked up a conversation about how prepared for graduate school we were as a result of our undergraduate institutions. Throughout this group, we had people who had attended schools such as Harvard University, the University of Michigan, the University of Arkansas, The University of Rhode Island, Tougaloo College, and North Carolina Central University (NCCU). In addition to being college graduates, we also shared one distinct commonality. We all identified as African American or of African descent.

As we discussed what aspects of our respective institutions assisted in our development and preparation post-graduation, one thing repeatedly came up. My peers who attended predominantly White institutions (PWIs) constantly spoke about their lack of community. Not necessarily from their respective peer groups but more so from their institutions as a whole. Further engaging in this conversation, one thing became apparent. Throughout my undergraduate experience at NCCU, I never felt unsupported by my institutional community. In fact, I dare to say that I would not be pursuing a doctoral degree at an Ivy League institution right now if it were not for the community I had at NCCU.

Although my peers attended wealthier institutions than NCCU, they often complained about the lack of support they received from their institution. In fact, one member of our group stated, “I don’t believe my school appreciated my Blackness. To be honest, as a Black person on that campus I was looked down on compared to my White counterparts.” Hearing this statement brought up memories of the PWI I attended prior to transferring to NCCU. I remember often being told by administrators and faculty alike that I would not make it to graduation. I often witnessed peers treated lesser than because of the color of their skin. But most of all I often remember being overlooked simply due to the color of my skin and the social class I belonged to.

But all this changed once I stepped foot on the campus of NCCU. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by Black brilliance. I attended classes taught by Black teachers, I learned first hand about the African diaspora from Black scholars. The senior leadership at this epicenter of Black excellence was comprised of Black people who looked like me. In many ways, I attribute my decision to embark on a career in higher education, due to the love, resilience, passion, and power I received as a student at NCCU.

Looking back at my educational journey, I often think of the lessons I learned at NCCU that still serve me well today. As a result, I have illustrated a few of these lessons in an effort to potentially help encourage those who have or will call schools like NCCU home one day.

It takes a village: There is an old African proverb that states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” When I enrolled in NCCU, I was a naïve young man who thought he knew everything about life. But as it often does, life humbled me very quickly. As an out of state student, I often remember faculty and staff members inviting me to family dinners, church, and other outing activities, just so I would not feel alone. I remembered being challenged by my university mentors to not settle for average grades but strive to be the exceptional student they knew I could be. It was through these acts of love and care that I have been able to strive to be the best version of who I am meant to be.

Work like your life depends on it: During my sophomore year, I often recall my mentor stating, “ Will, it is imperative that you work like your life depends on it, because one day it just might.” Although that was almost a decade ago, those words still hold relevance today. My first semester of doctoral studies nearly destroyed me mentally. But due to the aforementioned statement, I worked day and night in addition to practicing self-care to ensure that at the end of that semester, I would come out victorious.

Spend your 24 hours wisely: In one-on-one conversations with Chancellor Emeritus Charlie Nelms, he would often say, “Will, you know, everyone has the same 24-hours in a day. What determines an individual’s future success is how they choose to spend their 24.” Balancing working full-time as well as pursuing a terminal degree can be exhausting. But capitalizing on how I choose to spend each day while scheduling time for adequate rest has allowed me to maintain this balance.

Strive for your purpose: When I enrolled in NCCU I thought I wanted to pursue a law degree. But by the time I left the gates of my beloved alma mater, I realized fighting for educational equality was my purpose. As such, I have dedicated my life towards creating opportunities for those who society often overlooks and turns a blind eye to.

Thanks to the preparation and community I received at NCCU, I have been empowered to take on anything that comes my way. For those who are currently working towards their degrees, I leave you with this: Build your village; work like your life depends on it; spend your 24-hours effectively; and strive for your purpose no matter what obstacles are placed in your path.

HBCUs: Premier ─ Not Second-Rate ─ Institutions

image2

Treya Allen

HS 034

Janelle L. Williams

 

One debate that continually proves to be invalid is the constant comparison of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to predominately White institutions (PWIs). Oftentimes these discussions, sparked by individuals who are unfamiliar with higher education or the history of higher education, put forth ideas or pose questions that are grounded in nothing more than opinion sprinkled with skewed facts. In turn, forcing current HBCU students, alumni, supporters, and advocates to become reactionary and defensive, holding up the unique purpose and continued relevancy of HBCUs, quashing the comparisons to PWIs. The main context of the debate is typically centered in the secondary status awarded by social constructionism to HBCUs in comparison with PWIs, though the mission and historical context of the institutions are distinctly different. These debates, dominated by elitist thinking, created an unequal standard that postulates PWIs as the premier educational standard and HBCUs as second-rate institutions. What makes an Ivy League institution the best decision for Black brilliance? Who determined that a PWI is synonymous with the standard of education? Who brainwashed Black people into thinking that PWIs are the epitome of success?

Carter G. Woodson argued and warned in The Mis-Education of the Negro, that the [White] schools that we are sending our children to are slowly educating them away from themselves. Woodson also confesses that he once believed in the necessity of what we now regard as “Eurocentric education” ─ education that is centered on the past, present, and future European people. However, upon being schooled and socialized in these systems, Black students were taught that moving from their communities in search of “better” lives or returning to their communities after being “educated” would help revitalize and improve those same communities.

The erasure of the notion that Black-serving, Black-managed or Black-owned is inferior has to start within the Black community.  Once, we as a community, stop romanticizing the idea of White being the standard, we can create our own internal validity markers. This includes how we view and respect our schools including HBCUs. Which, in effect, ends the need to constantly compare HBCUs to PWIs. James Baldwin refusing to accept the discursive thought of White standard said, “[T]he world is not white; it never was white, cannot be white. White is a metaphor for power, and that is simply a way of describing Chase Manhattan Bank.” What if Black people stopped engaging in the HBCU/PWI debate and focused instead on the accomplishments of HBCUs? What does it look like to esteem these HBCUs, which are pivotal in the construction of the Black community and specialize in the genius and intellect of Black students?

HBCUs have, for generations, excelled at sharpening the brilliance of Black children and emerging adults while embracing cultural competence without disregard to other systems or viewpoints. This is not to say that Black students cannot thrive and successfully complete degrees at PWIs or that HBCUs are perfect institutions deficient of issues or concerns. We do however assert that HBCUs are not in competition with PWIs to prove that they are viable. This is not their mission. Somewhere we have been socialized to believe that they are an alternative option in higher education, instead of the pillars of training and education that were established to serve the Black community. HBCUs were created as a path during the incredulous practice of education for place. Given no other option for schooling and advanced training, HBCUs became the way out of no way. An answer to the prayers that many individuals, families, and communities prayed for. As we continue to shift our thinking, we ask a final question ─ what does it look like to honor the purpose of HBCUs without the standard of Whiteness or White supremacy as the guide for assessing the relevance, purpose, and evaluation of their mission in the education of Black students?

Janelle L. Williams is the Assistant Director for Health Policy at The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and a Visiting Scholar at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions. In addition, she currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Cheyney University Foundation.

Treya Allen currently serves as a senior academic advisor at the University of Arizona. Her scholarship centers on elevating Black scholars and families through culturally relevant ways of knowing -both ancestral and generational found- within the Black community. She is the curator of underground retention programs for Black scholars at the collegiate level and an independent learning specialist for students in K-12. Her mission is to empower parents as the first teacher of their children and to see Black children soar academically, socially, and developmentally. You can find her on Instagram @justtreya or on Twitter @T2Allen.

 

 

Cookman Wildcats, Community or Chaos?

amanda wilkerson

Amanda Wilkerson

 

During the month of January, we pay special honor to Dr. Martin Luther King. King was a talented theologian, civil rights giant, and an American hero. His leadership on many causes became a template to fight against injustice in the pursuit of equality. Some might argue that a fight is upon the horizon for Bethune Cookman University’s solvency as its managerial forces determine who will be next in leading the beachside historically Black college against the backdrop of a tide of trouble. My own view is, Bethune Cookman University (BCU) requires a leader who has command of academic provocations; management of fleeting fiscal resources; brilliancy in donations development; and, I suspect, an uncommon skill–supervision of Dr. Mary Bethune’s legacy.

Make no mistake, BCU is in the midst of an existential crisis. Many have noted the symptoms of this salacious critical point. Others have documented the causes of the dilemma. I seek to enter the conversation in order to discuss how BCU should move forward. I do so under the veil and vision of Dr. King. It is important to consider King’s laudable leadership regarding his social justice advocacy. Though the circumstances that face BCU is intimidating, I often wonder how its stakeholders can acknowledge and apply King’s leadership. Could BCU harness the prophetic modernity of King’s work within the context of the ever-present opportunity to overcome challenges that pervade the Wildcat community; annihilate its a crewed achievements; or dismantle distinctions that have set BCU apart and moved the institution ahead?

As I consider King’s life’s work it forces me to question, what is the dream we have for Bethune Cookman University? I am torn between the shattered sacrifices of a woman that gave her all to ensure that, initially, little black girls could be formally educated juxtaposed to the modern realities of an academic establishment dedicated to educational equality. We see the triumph of Dr. Bethune’s sacrifice, yet the truth is her legacy is marred with nearly a decade’s worth of struggles. Suffice to say, BCU requires a vision that sustains and supports the sacrifices of such a celebrated founder.

The pride of those that want to ensure that the university’s legacy exists for generations to come can be accomplished. It is, therefore, with urgency that I put forward three points of view that I feel will serve as sources of inspiration for the Cookman contingency as it fights for the soul of its storied school.

There any many facts that exist about Bethune Cookman, what do you have faith for?

First, the good book specifically clarifies that we walk by faith and not by sight. In other words, the fortitude necessary for the way forward is a faith walk. Not to be confused with empty religious piety that bring(s) on powerless paralysis. A faith walk is about the ability to reflectively position one’s thoughts on what is best while having the reflexivity to move work in a direction where faith, causes an effect on facts.

Second, rid your institution of individuals who love Cookman but don’t have the knowledge, skills, or the expertise to guide a modern-day university into a successful learning metropolis. This goes above and beyond a call of action to denounce current leadership, or demonize board oversight. To the contrary, it is important to solicit the input of stakeholders to determine key characteristics needed to advance avenues for maneuvering Bethune’s last will and testament. The expectation is that Bethune Cookman University was founded for the enrichment of the community in which it resides. This is not to say that outside investigations, or reviews of administrative missteps won’t help the school, but rather fixing the institution will be the work of those who have the skills and stand in solidarity with the institution.

Finally, I take a different approach from the aforementioned prescriptive points to conclude with an inquiry. What kind of mindset will it take to overcome the obstacles observed? Bethune Cookman University is an educational powerhouse that has served its community for 115 years. As an empowerment agent, how will Wildcats challenge the structures that signal its demise while balancing transforming the school into a beacon of light and transitioning out of the

Jackson Era? I suspect that the answers to my questions will not come easy and the approach to my probe will require more than a strategic plan. Nevertheless, the present discourses present an opportunity to counter stratify and write a new narrative.

For many reading this article, the call to salvage the predicament facing Bethune Cookman University is profoundly personal. Current students love the school and benefit from its nurturing environment. Alumni relish in the reclamation of a campus culture that seeded their dreams and situated their destinies. No matter if you are faculty, student, staff, administrator or alumni, all believe in the power and promise of Bethune Cookman, including this FAMU Rattler. As I wrote earlier it is not enough to evoke an examination of the problem. It also not enough to practice a scorched earth framework pitting the tutelage of Mary’s legacy against each other. What is central to the work of Bethune Cookman’s forward march is a deep investigation of Dr. King’s work for which he questioned, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community.” I look forward, to the community all Cookman Wildcats will build to dramatically curtail chaos.

Amanda Wilkerson is the director of the Urban Teaching Initiatives Project at the University of Central Florida in the College of Community Innovation and Education. Additionally, she has written educational materials and coordinated forums on significant social, pedagogical, and educational equity matters. Prolific social justice advocate and scholar, Dr. Wilkerson serves as guest editor for the Urban Education Research and Policy Annuals Journal-Hillard Sizemore Special Edition, and Co-Editor of From Student to Scholar: How Colleges of Education Mentor Underserved Doctoral Students; A project of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Recently, Wilkerson served as the partnership committee chair for the Parramore Innovation Education District initiative. As a part of her passion for higher education, Amanda is enhancing how students seize the promise of a post-secondary education through access.

It’s Time to Put an End to HBCU Gatekeeping

brandy

Brandy Jones

“We can joke like that, but you can’t.”

Last year, I overheard friendly banter between three HBCU alumni about which HBCU is better Howard, Morehouse, or North Carolina Central University. I chuckled listening to my colleagues talk about institutions as if they were competitive sporting teams and sat quietly not sure how I could contribute to the conversation — having been a graduate of a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). I watched as they compared homecomings and joked about the quality of entertainment that happened over the weekend of events that brought so many Black alumni together each year. As I giggled listening in, one of my colleagues looked to me and said clearly, “we can joke like that, but you can’t.” I was taken back by that statement and yet it provoked some thought.

My first job after graduating college was working for the first historically Black college, Cheyney University. And, although a couple of my family members and friends attended HBCUs, I had not experienced what it was like to attend a college with a mission that centers on my identity or to go to a school where people who looked like me made up more than 8% of the student population. I never attended a homecoming that was exciting or thrilling enough to return and never experienced going to class and being amongst the majority. The truth is I am an outsider.

That day was monumental for me because it allowed me to understand the invisible boundaries that have the potential to influence my work as someone who aspires to do higher education research and research particularly related to HBCUs. I experienced these gatekeepers at my first job at Cheyney; when I was considered untrustworthy because I had not attended an HBCU. I experienced it as a person working at a research center focused on highlighting institutions like HBCUs, which serve students of color and provide avenues of educational attainment for students — many who look just like me, come from low-income backgrounds, and whose parents never stepped foot on a college campus prior to graduation. I understand the hesitation to feel protective of HBCUs as they are hubs of culture and centers of Black excellence, yet have been underfunded, undersupported, and perceived as inferior institutions by many outsiders. I get it. I know and believe like many HBCU alumni that HBCUs must be protected at all costs.

I may not have attended an HBCU, primarily as a result of a lack of information as a first-generation college student, a desire to stay close to home, and because it was cheapest to go to my state’s flagship institution, but I am not the enemy. I am not here to penetrate any HBCU camaraderie nor claim to comprehend what the HBCU experience is like. I want to share the value and significance of these institutions having worked so closely with the students that these institutions have transformed. We must end this HBCU vs. PWI debate and build community regardless of the choice of your undergraduate institution. I may be an outsider, but I am not an adversary. In a country where the value of the educational institutions are under constant questioning and the HBCU list is dwindling, HBCUs (and their alumni) cannot continue to gatekeep who is able to advocate for these incredible institutions.

Brandy Jones is the Assistant Director for Communications at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also currently pursuing an M.S.Ed in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania. 

TCUs Addressing Native American Mental Health Disparities

43271530582_fa06fb5d34_o (1)

Rachel Bryan

It is too often that we see headlines about celebrity suicides, but these articles rarely help us to understand the impact of suicide in various communities. Did you know that Native American suicide rates are 10 to 20 times higher than the US national average and higher than all other racial/ethnic groups? In addition to coping with “a history of race-based policy, discrimination, and oppression,” Native American communities also experience high rates of substance abuse, sexual assault, and violence, all of which are intertwined with mental health. Native Americans need access to resources that are specific to supporting their mental health, and thankfully, tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) are responding to this call. Understanding that Native American students attending TCUs have to adjust to college life while coping with the struggles of their communities, TCUs are offering resources including psychological counseling, drug and substance abuse services, sexual assault and domestic violence services, and family counseling.

Fortunately, many TCUs have begun to offer basic psychological counseling, also referred to as personal counseling. For example, institutions including the College of the Muscogee Nation, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, Haskell Indian Nations University, the Institute for American Indian and Alaska Native Culture/Institute for the American Indian Arts, Sinte Gleska University, Oglala Lakota College, Salish Kootenai College, Sitting Bull College, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, Stone Child College, and United Tribes Technical College are among the TCUs that offer their students psychological counseling. These centers are prepared to address a wide variety of psychological issues that are overrepresented in the Native American population, such as PTSD and depression.   

Additionally, many TCUs are offering counseling specific to drug and substance abuse, since Native Americans “use and abuse alcohol and other drugs at younger ages, and at higher rates, than all other ethnic groups.” For example, College of the Muscogee Nation, Navajo Technical University, Sinte Gleska University, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, Stone Child College, Turtle Mountain Community College, and United Tribes Technical college all provide services specific to drug and substance abuse. These services include workshops, personal counseling, group counseling, education programs, resources, and referrals to community resources.

Sadly, 84% of Native American women have experienced violence, with more than half experiencing domestic or sexual violence. In addition, the United States Department of Justice “declined to prosecute more than half of the cases of violence on Indian Country, and of the cases, 67 percent of them were sexual violence.” Of those that were not declined, only 13% led to arrests. Fortunately, TCUs including Oglala Lakota College, Salish Kootenai College, and United Tribes Technical College all provide services related to sexual assault and domestic violence. These services include educational programs, victim assistance, counseling, and referrals.

Family is an important value in Native American culture, some TCUs have extended their mental health resources to the immediate family members of their students. For example, United Tribes Technical College, and the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture, also known as the Institute of the American Indian Arts, offer family counseling. Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College also has a Student Family Support Center, which provides resources to students “trying to balance the responsibilities of parenting, family, and work with the goals of achieving a college education and maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” though these resources are specific to students. Family access is key because those in more rural and isolated Native American communities can experience difficulty when seeking mental health resources.

In sum, while not all TCUs are offering mental health services, many are addressing the mental needs of the Native American community. It is important to remember that these resources may not be available at all TCUs due to funding, capacity, and the lack of these resources does not necessarily reflect the TCUs’ stance on mental health. For TCUs that are offering mental health resources, I encourage you to advertise it clearly on your website and be proud that you are providing services that both expand and nurture the minds of your students!

Resources:

American Psychiatric Association & Office of Minority and National Affairs. (2010). Mental Health Disparities: American Indians and Alaska Natives. Retrieved from https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/workforce/mental_health_disparities_american_indian_and_alaskan_natives.pdf

Center for Disease Control and Prevention & United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Fact sheet: Health disparities in suicide. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/minorityhealth/chdir/2011/factsheets/suicide.pdf

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). CDC Fatal Injury Reports, 2004-2013. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal_injury_reports.html

Conrad, C., & Gasman, M. (2015). Educating a diverse nation: Lessons from minority-serving institutions. Harvard University Press.

Peterson-Hickey, M. (2015). American Indians, Mental Health, and the Influence of History. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/apa-blog/2015/11/american-indians-mental-health-and-the-influence-of-history

Racine, E. (2017). #NotInvisible: The Plight of Native American Women and Sexual Violence Lakota People’s Law Project. Retrieved from https://www.lakotalaw.org/news/2017-12-05/notinvisible

Student Family Support Center. (2018). Retrieved from https://fdltcc.edu/student-support/young-student-parent-program/

Serving ALL Latinxs: Recognizing Racial and Ethnic Heterogeneity at HSIs

paredes_audrey_headshot_1-resize-1.jpg

Audrey D. Paredes

In late October 2018, a caravan of an estimated 4,000 asylum seekers began their journeys from Honduras to the United States. These migrants, like many other Central Americans who have sought asylum in the U.S., seek to escape extreme poverty, violence, and political repression. As I write this piece, they continue their thousands of miles long journey, mostly by foot, through Central America and Mexico while facing discrimination, extreme violence, and some even death. As the daughter of immigrants from Guatemala, I too am familiar with the intergenerational stories of displacement, trauma, and survival that exists within the Central American immigrant community that now resides in the U.S.

In recent years the field of higher education has witnessed an increase in research and advocacy that focuses on the experiences of Latinx students and recommendations for institutions to improve access, retention, and campus climate. However, through my literature searches, I have found that most of the research in the field focuses only on the umbrella group of “Latinx” or “Chicanx” students. While the focus on Latinx or Chicanx students is reasonable and understood, I argue that higher education scholars and practitioners invested in creating equity for Latinxs must be intentional in who and how they are defining as “Latinx” students in their data collection, assessment, programming, and student support. Scholar, Vasti Torres, argued this as well in her 2004 article in which she urged scholars to pay close attention to the “diversity among us”[1]. The push to recognize racial and ethnic heterogeneity is not new to the field of higher education. Scholars, such as Robert Teranishi[2] (focusing on Asian American and Pacific Islander students) and Chrystal A. George Mwangi[3] (focusing on Black immigrant students) have long been advocates for data disaggregation and specificity in educational research so that we may push the needle and have a clearer understanding of the nuances that make up historically marginalized students’ identities, realities, and relations to systems of power.

The short anecdote that I began this piece with is just one of the unique contemporary and historical phenomena that Central Americans have encountered in their transnational experiences. Although there is limited literature on Central Americans in the field of education, scholars in other fields and disciplines have found that Central Americans often feel invisible and misrepresented because of the lack of knowledge that exists about their communities, identities, and experiences[4]. It is also important to note that a significant number of Central Americans embody characteristics of refugees, more so than economic migrants (as they are typically considered or referred to)[5]. These few examples should be relevant to us in higher education because it highlights the unique nuances of the experiences of Central American students and their families as they navigate higher education and society. Although I offer Central Americans as an example because of my own personal experience as a Guatemalan first-generation student, recognizing racial and ethnic heterogeneity is important for all groups that identify with the larger “Latinx” categorization that is typically used by institutions of higher education to identify students.

As the number of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) continues to grow, HSIs have the potential to become leaders across all institutions (HSI or not) in recognizing Latinx racial and ethnic heterogeneity amongst its student populations. Similarly, scholars who are invested in interrogating what it means to truly “serve” at HSIs can dramatically shape the field of higher education by being intentional on who makes up these specific student populations and urging other scholars to do so as well. It is important to note that Latinxs are ethnically AND racially heterogeneous. For example, it is problematic to treat students as Black or Latinx or having students only select one-checkbox when providing demographic data, ignoring the fact they may embody both (or more) identities and realities at the same time. Relatedly, as is the case for some members of the Central American community living in the U.S., some students and their families are members of indigenous communities in Central America and therefore might not speak English nor Spanish and have an entirely different experience than non-indigenous Central Americans. Latinx students differ in language, socio-economic status, immigrant and citizenship status, familial educational backgrounds, racial backgrounds, and many other characteristics. Therefore, we must be careful in not applying a one-size-fits-all “culture” to Latinx students in hopes of supporting them but ultimately falling short.

HSIs can be leaders by highlighting racial and ethnic heterogeneity by urging their offices to collect and utilize data in a disaggregated manner (if not done so already) by country of origin, language, and immigrant and citizenship status. Collecting data in a disaggregated manner allows us to have a refined picture of who our students are to avoid harmful misunderstandings of student needs.  HSIs can also be mindful in how they approach cultural programming such as events and festivities that take place on campus. As a report by The Racial Heterogeneity Project states, “the assumption that the Mexican American experience is the definitive Latino experience is inaccurate”[6]; therefore, when institutions only use uniquely Mexican cultural markers for campus celebrations, non-Mexican identifying students feel left out or unseen by their institution. A method of serving for an HSI can be in making sure their Latinx students, all Latinx students, feel seen and represented.

As a graduate of an HSI, I have a first-hand understanding of the potential and promise that many HSIs are able to fulfill for its Latinx students and its overall student body. I believe that through highlighting and embracing the “diversity among us”[7] to best understand student needs, successes, and experiences of Latinx students, HSIs can become stronger in serving and become institutional leaders as we aim to build racial equity for historically marginalized student groups.

Audrey D. Paredes is a Ph.D. student in the Social Science and Comparative Education Division specializing in Race and Ethnic Studies in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is a research associate for the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education and the Center for Critical Race Studies in Education. Her research interests include racial stratification and equity in higher education and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). Audrey earned a B.A. in Gender, Ethnicity, and Multicultural Studies from Cal Poly Pomona and an M.A. from UCLA. 


[1] Torres, V. (2004). The diversity among us: Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, Caribbean Americans, and Central and South Americans. New Directions for Student Services, (105), 5-16.

[2]Teranishi, R., Lok, L., & Nguyen, B.D. (2013). iCount: A Data Quality Movement for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Higher Education. New York, NY: CARE Project.

[3] George Mwangi, C.A. (2014). Complicating Blackness: Black immigrants & racial positioning in US higher education. Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis3(2), 3.

[4] Yarbrough, R. A. (2010). Becoming “Hispanic” in the “new South”: Central American immigrants’ racialization experiences in Atlanta, GA, USA. GeoJournal, 75(3), 249-260.; Lavadenz, M. (2005). Como hablar en silencio (like speaking in silence): issues for language, culture, and identity of central americans in los angeles. In Zentella, A. C. (Ed.). (2005). Building on strength: Language and literacy in Latino families and communities. Teachers College Press.

[5] Menjivar, C. (2006). Liminal legality: Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants’ lives in the United States. American Journal of Sociology, 111(4), 999-1037.

[6] Nguyen, B. M. D., Alcantar, C. M., Curammeng, E., Hernandez, E., Kim, V., Paredes, A., Nguyen, M., & Teranishi, R. T. (2017). The Racial Heterogeneity Project: Implications for Higher Education Research, Practice, and Policy. Los Angeles, CA: The Institute for Immigration, Globalization, & Education.

[7] Torres, V. (2004). The diversity among us: Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, Caribbean Americans, and Central and South Americans. New Directions for Student Services, (105), 5-16.

Racial Inclusivity at Hispanic Serving Institutions

Gray_Alyse-102417 (1) (1) (3)

Alyse Gray Parker

Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) are here to stay. In the United States, HSIs account for 492 universities in 21 states and Puerto Rico. This number will continue to grow. According to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), there are 333 “emerging” HSIs, where full-time Hispanic students make up 15-24.9% of total enrollment.

As the number of HSIs continues to rise, so will the diversity of students these institutions serve. HSIs range from large flagship universities to local community colleges and small private universities. As a Black student attending an HSI —The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), I have reflected on my experiences attending an institution and living in a city where many people have brown skin like me, but aren’t like me. This experience has been enlightening, exciting, frustrating and deeply perceptive, all at once. There are probably many other Black students attending HSIs that are having similar experiences. However, that experience does not need to be a negative one. HSIs have the ability to serve many populations of students who are often underrepresented in higher education.

At UTSA, Black students make up 9% of the student population. Hispanic students make up 53% of the student population. For HSIs like UTSA where the student population is of a similar makeup, their challenge is making an inclusive environment for not only their majority Hispanic student population, but other underrepresented students. This can be difficult, as it can easily become an argument of who is more marginalized. Further, many HSIs are still Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). To address these complexities, institutions can be deliberate in facilitating meaningful conversations that result in real change.

Different views of intergroup race relations on campuses that are majority Hispanic are another aspect to the conversation of racial inclusivity. A 2008 study by Pew research found through a survey on intergroup relations that a majority of Black and Hispanic respondents said the groups get along very or fairly well, but Hispanics were significantly more likely than Blacks to say that intergroup relations were strained. While this is just one piece of research on the specific inter-group relations, it can lead us to consider and even understand why certain conversations may or may not occur between the two groups on campus. Partnerships between different student cultural groups or offices on campus can facilitate these conversations while simultaneously encouraging university support and inclusivity of all students.

Further research on Black students at HSIs can also assist in moving the conversation forward. For example in their 2012 chapter, Richard Reddick and Julian Vaquez write about how the impact of attending an HSI affects Black male students through a qualitative lens[1]. They found that black male students found their own community at their institution and still had to navigate institutional and systemic racism in the higher education system. Additional research focused on these topics can help our understanding of how HSIs serve multiple populations of students.

HSIs are in a position to become champions of student diversity and inclusion in today’s higher education landscape. Having a Black face in a brown space myself, I have taken the opportunity to learn about cultures I did not have access to before – especially coming from Central Ohio where the student population can look quite homogenous, especially on a college campus. Administrators, faculty, and staff at HSIs should create spaces for intergroup dialogue focused on race. Open dialogue on issues such as race can help students empathize with and relate to one another on an individualized level as well as create community.

Large or small, public or private, HSIs are diverse in both institutional makeup and student population. It can be easy to leave out students on campus regardless of student population size, but HSIs have a unique opportunity to serve as an environment to develop innovative and inclusive diversity practices. Yes, many students at HSIs are students of color, but we must remember that there is diversity among students of color. Taking advantage of this opportunity will be key for leaders at HSIs to continue successful outcomes at their institutions.

[1] Reddick, R. J., Heilig, J. V., & Valdez, P. L. (2012). Bridging a Black-Brown Divide: Black Male Students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions In A. A. Hilton, J. L. Wood, & C. W. Lewis (Eds.), Black males in postsecondary education: Examining their experiences in diverse institutional contexts, (pp. 183-208). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Alyse Gray Parker is currently a Ph.D. student at The University of Texas at San Antonio in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with a concentration in Higher Education. Alyse has previously worked as a policy intern with the Lumina Foundation, at Trinity University in the Office of Disability Services and as a school psychologist for Columbus City Schools in Columbus, Ohio. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Alyse completed her B.A. and M.A. at The Ohio State University. Her research interests include federal and state higher education policy related to affordability, Minority Serving Institutions, and access and equity issues in higher education.

 

Black Faces in White Spaces: Unearthing the Racialized and Gendered Experiences of Black Women Residential Assistants

A. Hardaway

Ayana Hardaway

Banana found on door handle of black students’ dorm; White Student charged with contaminating Black roommate’s belongings with bodily fluids; “We’re really scared”: Students on edge as racial slur found on campus.

These headlines represent several of many news headlines which have surfaced over the last year representing the types of racially charged incidents occurring on college campuses nationwide. During the tumultuous presidential campaign leading up to the most recent election in 2017, the United States experienced an uprising in domestic discriminatory and racial attacks. These occurrences resulted in an eruption of violence, murders, and protests, which were recorded and streamed on social media. Inevitably, such occurrences also affected U.S. universities across the nation. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of reported campus hate crimes increased by 25 percent from 2015 to 2016. Additionally, college-specific data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, suggests the election itself played a role in the influx of reported cases. Incidents on campuses have included physical harassment, microaggressions, vandalism accompanied by racial symbols or slurs, and hate speech. Such occurrences have resulted in Black students, and other historically marginalized groups on campuses, to cope by drawing on various methods of resistance; such as staging protests on campus, and raising their voices when slighted.

When incidents like these take place within residential living communities, Resident Assistants (RAs) typically stand at the front lines. RAs are tasked with the responsibility of upholding inclusive and safe spaces where students live while having the ability to recognize a crisis and follow proper university protocol to manage that crisis. As a former RA at a predominantly White institution (PWI), I was also on the front lines and can recall feeling challenged and having my authority questioned, mostly by my White residents. It was unbeknownst to me at the time if the push-back I was experiencing was because I was a woman, because I was Black, or both. These experiences occurred over a decade ago and caused me to wonder: What are the current experiences of Black women RAs who need to support others while experiencing multiple forms of oppression themselves as a result of their leadership role, race and gender?

After consulting the higher education literature, here’s what I discovered:

Research on Black RAs is Limited: Currently, educational scholarship questioning how African American students navigate racism on college campuses as part of their leadership roles are underexplored. Furthermore, scholarship centering Black women employed in the RA role are explored even less. Shaun Harper’s 2011 study on the experiences of Black male RAs at PWIs confirm that while RAs are provided with the tools to address common challenges, “there are problematic, race-specific others that have gone undisclosed in previous research and consequently unaddressed in residence life departments.” Overall, most of the published research on the experiences of RAs documents raceless accounts of challenges faced by RAs. 

RAs are Undertrained: A great deal of responsibility and risk come hand in hand with being an RA. Research has acknowledged the ways in which RAs, who are some of the most important employees in higher-ed, are often the most undertrained. As a result, traditional RA training is primarily focused on providing strategies to help students address commonly known challenges within their residence halls. Subsequently, conflict addressing issues of racism are avoided. The research which centers the experiences of Black students complicates these challenges and only confirm that there is more to be learned within residence life departments. Given the current racial tensions on campuses, more research on the racialized experiences of RAs are warranted for institutions to provide the trainings needed to support Black students serving in these roles.

Black Women RAs Need Support: In their 2017 study, which explored the intersectional experiences of Black women RAs, Ericka Roland and Vonzell Agosto’s findings alluded to the challenges students face on campus due to the shift in the nation’s political and racial climate. Specifically, the study reported that an increase in campus racial microaggressions became more visible after the killings of unarmed Black men and the Black Lives Matter movement. Black women RAs reported feeling that due to their gender and race, they struggled with facilitating dialogue around current events and racial issues with White residents.

Black women college students share a collective history of discrimination and marginalization within systems of higher education. Unlike their Black men and White women counterparts, these women share a unique social location in their racial and gender identity where they experience multiple types of oppression from dominant groups and the target groups in which they are socially assigned. My research seeks to unpack these intersections for Black women RAs.

While my current research explicitly explores these experiences at PWIs, my future research agenda seeks to explore the experiences of Black women RAs at HBCUs (another area which has been underexplored within the higher education literature). HBCUs are experiencing a surge in enrollment. According to Marybeth Gasman, Director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, freshman enrollment is up 40% at HBCUs due to the recent national episodes of racial unrest. HBCUs often highlight their ability to create inclusive campus climates through cultivating meaningful relationships between faculty, staff, and students which enhance student retention and success. Black feminist scholars refer to this sense of nurturing and cross-familial patterns of care as “othermothering.” While HBCUs may offer a more inclusive campus than their PWI counterparts, some scholars suggest that sexism continues to be pervasive, and embedded within institutional practices at HBCUs. In her article entitled “Addressing Gender Issues in the Historically Black College and University Community: A Challenge and Call to Action”, Florence Bonner from Howard University explains that “In terms of barriers to promotion, exclusion from the curricula, a chilly climate in the workplace and classroom, and sexual harassment, African American women face the same obstacles at HBCUs as they do at PWIs.” Such findings would indicate that while Black undergraduate RAs at HBCUs might experience less racially charged microaggressions and conflict than their PWI counterparts, they might experience a heightened degree of gender-based discrimination from men, who also identify as Black.

In order for postsecondary administrators and educators (at PWIs and HBCUs alike) to retain, support, and improve the unique experiences of these women, understanding the gendered and racialized realities of their experiences are crucial.

Ayana Tyler Hardaway is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Policy, Organizational, & Leadership Studies in the College of Education at Temple University. Under the advisement of Dr. James Earl Davis, she is conducting a critical, qualitative study on the experiences of Black undergraduate women RAs within a PWI. Ayana’s primary research interests include exploring the intersections of race and gender within Black women, and marginalized groups in college settings, cultural identity, and contemporary social movements on college campuses. Ayana has previously served as a Research Assistant on a Community Based Research Project with primary and secondary schools in collaboration with the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. Ayana also holds several professional memberships in organizations such as AERA, ASHE, and PA-NAME.

Getting Predominantly Black Institutions a Primetime Spot

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 2.58.13 PM

Anthony Fowlkes

For African American students looking to pursue postsecondary education, the term HBCU brings out many opinions. Recently, HBCUs have been featured in the media from TV shows like Black-ish, and United Shades of America to their own PBS special, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges & Universities. Just last year, these institutions made national news when HBCU presidents met with President Trump in the White House and when the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, gave her first commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University. If that was not impressive enough, Beyoncé turned her 2018 Coachella performances into a tribute to the Black excellence found at HBCUs. The conversation around HBCUs is alive and happening now.

It might come as a shock to some that Black education is not contained in just these 105 institutions. There are 30 other institutions currently designated as Predominately Black Institutions (PBIs). PBIs are approaching their 10-year anniversary since written into law when the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 – a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 – passed. However, Congress first recognized these institutions through the Predominantly Black Institution Act of 2007.

These institutions were designated as PBIs as a result of one of the final provisions of the then Senator, Barack Obama. In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education Obama stated, “Congress has long supported the essential role of similar institutions through provisions supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, but newer institutions serving a needier, but deserving student populations can now also be recognized and supported.” The move to designate these institutions was intentional and critical to expanding funding opportunities to institutions that serve Black students.

Now you must be wondering if HBCUs are historical, how does one define a PBI? There are 4 criteria that the federal government uses to define a PBI, they are:

  1. Must serve at least 1,000 undergraduate students
  2. Have a high proportion of Pell-eligible undergraduate students in comparison with other institutions offering similar instruction
  3. Have a low per full-time undergraduate student expenditure in comparison with other institutions offering similar instruction
  4. Must enroll at least 40% African-American students

These criteria are not easy bars to clear. In comparison, when determining eligibility for the 2018 academic year, the U.S. Department of Education found that:

  • 29 of undergraduate serving HBCUs enrolled less than 1,000 undergraduate students
  • 4 HBCUs enrolled few Pell-eligible students compared to similar institutions
  • 16 HBCUs spent more on full-time undergrads than similar institutions
  • 5 HBCUs did not enroll at least 40% of African-American students

If we are holding PBIs to such a high standard, then we need to acknowledge the hard work they are doing. I believe this show of support can come in several forms.

Firstly, higher education scholars should begin researching PBIs. These institutions are currently one of the least studied of all of the Minority Serving Institutions, particularly due to their newness. However, after 10 years there are still no peer-reviewed studies conducted solely on PBIs. There is ample opportunity to not only examine the outcomes PBIs produce but also include these institutions alongside current assessments of HBCUs to give a fuller picture of Black postsecondary education. In addition, over 100 more institutions are on the cusp of becoming PBIs, as of 2017. We, as a higher education community, need to examine the specific needs of these schools in order to assist in overcoming barriers.

Secondly, PBIs are serving as a pipeline for Black students to enter postsecondary education. PBIs are mostly 2-year colleges offering associates degrees in the East, South, and Midwest. If HBCUs partnered with these institutions, then the pipeline could continue for these students. This approach provides more opportunities for students who were unsure of pursuing a 4-year education first, wanted to stay closer to home, or lacked knowledge around HBCUs. Partnerships would not only help students but could also help increase HBCU enrollment – especially due to the proximity of PBIs to HBCUs.

Finally, through media and consumer education, there needs to be a push to highlight these institutions to students and families. These institutions don’t have the legacies of HBCUs to carry them into the Oval Office or to the stage at Coachella. As a community of people interested in the success of Black students, spotlighting PBIs will garner more public support and illuminate the excellent work these institutions are doing to support and uplift Black and first-generation low-income students. Getting research into the hands of media commentators, calling representatives to stress the importance of these institutions, and getting those speaking to high school students to include PBIs as an option is just the first step towards PBIs primetime spot.

Anthony Fowlkes is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Higher Education as well as a master’s degree in Public Policy at the University of Michigan. He is originally from Troy, Michigan and attended the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, majoring in both Economics and Asian Studies. Anthony worked throughout his undergraduate career in the Office of the Vice President of Student Life conducting research on the institution’s student population. In his first year of graduate school, Anthony worked with University of Michigan’s Office of Enrollment. Anthony’s research interests include federal financial aid system and the effectiveness of institutional policies that assist in the accurate and timely disbursement of those funds. Anthony was also an intern at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.