Black Female Undergraduates on Campus: Successes and Challenges: Volume 12

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Table of contents

(17 chapters)

Since 1976, while the total numerical enrollments of Black female undergraduates exceeded their male counterparts by a factor of nearly 2 to 1, the enrollment growth rate among Black males exceeded that of Black females, 60% as compared to 40% (NCES, 2008). The heightened enrollment growth among Black males may be attributable to increased attention to their comparative diminishing numbers in both scholarly and popular forums. However, as reflected by Cole and Guy-Sheftall (2003), it is fallacious to assume “improving the status of black men will single-handedly solve all the complex problems facing African American communities” (p. XXIX). As such, the purpose of this empirical collection of works is to identify both successes and challenges faced by Black female students accessing and matriculating through institutions of higher education. Special attention is paid to women pursuing careers in the high-demand fields of teacher education and STEM.

Using the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System Completion Survey by Race (1980–2009), we seek to redirect the conversation about African-American females as single mothers, welfare recipients, and victims of the AIDS epidemic to one that highlights their exceptional school enrollment levels and postsecondary degree attainment. We examine separately the educational trends for black women by citizenship status and identify institutions that have been successful at conferring degrees to each group of black women. We find that the percentage of black women enrolled as first-time freshmen was greater than the percentage of any other non-white group, the growth in the total number of black women enrolled at for-profit institutions as first-time freshmen more than double and HBCUs were institutions most successful at conferring degrees to black women.

African American females make up two-thirds of African American postsecondary enrollments and 60% of all African Americans with at least a bachelor's degree. How do brothers and sisters with shared experiences have such markedly different outcomes? I find that African American females are more likely than African American males to apply to college, to attend college, and to attend two-year colleges, four-year colleges, and selective colleges. Students' backgrounds, academic achievement, and Catholic school attendance explains the differences in the type of colleges African American females and males attend, but fail to explain differences in college application and attendance rates.

Gender differences in self-actualization among a sample of Black university students was assessed using the Short Index of Self-Actualization. The eta square index indicated that a medium amount of the variance of the self-actualization variable in Black university students was accounted for by gender. Specifically, Black female university students reported more self-actualization than Black males. However, greater relative self-actualization achievement to their same-raced male peers does not address relative achievement to other peers or abolish the need for challenges and concerns of Black women college students to be considered.

In the present chapter, we argue that Black college women's experiences with microaggressive racial discrimination are best understood through the lens of intersectionality, which emphasizes the interrelations between race and gender. We use a focus group method with 20 Black female students (mean age=20) from two different settings: a four-year university and a community college both located in the same college town. This qualitative approach allows us to understand Black women's experiences in more detail and to gain insight into how microaggressions are lived on a daily basis during college. Our findings affirm that in and around college campuses, many Black female students regularly encounter microaggressive forms of discrimination unique to being Black and female, which communicate messages of inferiority, criminal status, abnormal cultural values, and rigid stereotypes. We conclude with suggestions for what colleges and universities should do in order enhance support services and create a more inclusive environment.

This article draws from a qualitative case study with four Black reentry women. Exploring their educational narratives through the framework of Black Feminist Thought, this study reveals that the women enacted their college reentry in three compelling ways: (1) reentry as a response to critical moments, (2) reentry as a strategy for coping with challenges, and (3) reentry as a practical step toward getting their daughters in to college. Cursory reviews of Black women in higher education and representations of Black motherhood contexualize the struggles these and other Black women have faced in getting an education, raising their families, and maintaining a positive image in society.

Widely viewed and supported as entertainment, we still know relatively little about the postsecondary experiences about college student-athletes especially when compared to other student populations. As such, this chapter contributes to that literature by first reviewing what we already know about Black female student-athletes as a unique population in the postsecondary environment who face challenges that differ from their Black male and White female counterparts. Second, this chapter expands the literature by analyzing data from original research conducted by the authors that focus on the academic, athletic, and campus climate experiences of these students.

Little is known about the college experiences of Black lesbians at predominantly White institutions (PWIs). The purpose of our study was to explore the social support systems that these students develop in order to be successful. Six women consented to interviews that lasted 45–60 minutes. The results indicate that there are three primary sources of support on campus support, off campus support, and family. With regards to on and off campus support, our participants mostly turned to friends to emotional and appraisal support, family for instrumental support, and campus administrators, faculty, and organizations for informational support. The research also indicated that the women's support networks could be characterized by a great degree of multiplexity and homophily. We conclude the article with recommendations for policy and future research.

This paper examines the effectiveness of the Nash, Borman, and Colson (1980) 3-phase career education model for gifted and talented 12th grade student on African American girls' decisions to study STEM disciplines after high school. Using qualitative methodology to collect and analyze data from participants at a small urban math and science focused high school, the findings suggest that the model is only as beneficial as its implementation. The paper recommends useful strategies that will ensure students are able to receive the benefits of experience that the model offers, thus aligning their academic strengths with their career options.

Increased efforts are being made by key entities (e.g., the National Science Foundation) within the United States to support various strategies aimed at broadening participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Consistent with these efforts, strategic attention has been placed on targeting African Americans in the computing sciences. Previous research on computing sciences intervention efforts (e.g., Chase & Okie, 2000; Hale, 2002) revealed that even when positive outcomes occur, they tend to vary by gender. As such, this study examined the differential gender outcomes of a computing sciences outreach effort aimed at broadening participation of African Americans in degree programs and career options at predominantly White institutions. The results of this study highlight the need to address the varying needs of targeted participants based on gender when designing and implementing similar programs.

This chapter is based upon a five-year qualitative study and focuses on the experiences of 39 black women who entered physics and other science majors. The women reported feeling prepared to compete; however, they faced challenges in establishing meaningful relationships with faculty and peers. In the classroom they were often stereotyped as less capable then their male counterparts. They relished opportunities to meet other female scientists who inspire and motivated them to succeed. Perhaps most importantly they sought balance and desired to have a full life that includes science as well as other important elements like family.

Increasing the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce is a national priority. This discourse recognizes that everyone who graduates from college must first have highly qualified teachers all along the elementary and secondary pipeline. Therefore, considerable attention is given to STEM educators. Like those who enter STEM disciplines with the intention of enjoying successful careers as practitioners, there are those who value the profession of teaching. The same problem with swelling the presence of skilled STEM practitioners is apparent in swelling the presence of STEM educators. In both cases, these small populations are not diverse; women of color are woefully underrepresented. Given the age when demands of professional accountability are excessive (even punitive), electing a career in education is not generally a first choice. Nonetheless, there are women of color who not only choose to teach, but also choose to teach in the some of the most cognitively challenging content areas. This chapter used qualitative research methods to understand how African American female undergraduate student come to select and persist in a STEM teacher preparation program.

Cover of Black Female Undergraduates on Campus: Successes and Challenges
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Book series
Diversity in Higher Education
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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