Los Angeles Two-Year College Students Aim High By Considering HBCUs

 I attended the Los Angeles Southwest College (LASC) and Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, Inc. Transfer Fair, April 29, 2015.

Panelists discussed the pride of the HBCU experience at the College Transfer Fair held at LASC, a two-year college.

The discussion about HBCUs comes at a time when alumni from black colleges and universities are taking leadership roles on a variety of initiatives including programs promoting fatherhood, as well as programs promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). In addition, after having contributed significantly to the funding of HBCUs during the early portion of his presidential administration, President Obama’s administration has also increased scrutiny of a variety of colleges and universities, including HBCUs. Graduation rates and budget spending are of particular interest, according to an article by The Washington Post.
The Obama administration is in the midst of a higher education reform which currently includes a proposal for providing two free years of community college to students.
In, addition to increased focus on HBCUs at the Federal level, private industry is paying increased attention to HBCUs. This is evidenced by a recent article stating that Google has established mentorships with several HBCUs.

Panelists at the two-year Los Angeles Southwest College and AKA Sorority Transfer Fair connected with students interested in a high-quality education with an African American cultural and intellectual experience.
The panel featured five individuals who elected to begin their college experience at an historically black college or university (HBCU). The panelists spoke to a group of students interested in various fields of study including nursing and music. While the program was mostly focused on celebrating HBCUs, other presentations focused on legal issues as well as career preparation. For instance, there was a presentation from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office called “Know Your Legal Rights — Legal Savvy”. This presentation taught the “Dos and the Don’ts” of interacting with law enforcement officers. In keeping with the legal theme, there was also a presentation of “Human Trafficking” by a member of the LAPD. Other presentations focused on college and career preparation with STEM education being a central part of the school-to-career path.
Panelists on the “HBCU/College Experience Panel Discussion” could not contain their enthusiasm for higher education, in general, and black colleges and universities in particular. 
Panelists Juanita Dawson (Grambling State University), Gimel Rogers (Spelman College), Kwame Dow (Lincoln University) Dr. George Taylor (Tuskegee University), and James Reed (Norfolk State University) were unified in the support for the HBCU experience. All said that they gained an appreciation for academic rigor by taking courses from professors who were from a variety of ethnic and national backgrounds. Panelists educated audience members about the various ways that HBCUs contribute by inspiring students to not only continue their education, but to also become part of a legacy of active, nationally-recognized alumni, many of whom are involved in philanthropic missions.
Dawson spoke about the sense of community that HBCUs are famous for fostering, Rogers spoke about the HBCU experience as one that historically provided a foundation for entry into Ivy League and other elite, predominantly white, research and professional institutions.
Dow spoke about making the decision between New York University and Lincoln. A child of Guyanese immigrants living in The Big Apple (New York), Dow wanted a different experience. So, he chose the HBCU with the longest history, the alma mater of many luminaries including the great poet Langston Hughes, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and leader of Ghana and the Gold Coast Kwame Nkrumah. 
Taylor spoke about first learning of what would later become his alma mater when he was a child of six and saw a decorative spoon in his parents’ kitchen drawer celebrating the founder of Tuskegee University, Booker T. Washington. Noticing that the spoon was different from the others, he asked his mother a variety of questions about it and that naturally led to a discussion of Tuskegee.
The panelists noted that some HBCUs are public, while others are private. In addition, the schools may have different majors and strengths. One common bond between the various types of institutions, though was feeling as though their presence, as human beings, mattered. For example, Taylor spoke about attending Tuskegee Institute (later, University) during a time in the history of our nation when African Americans struggled for equal rights. Because the institution was private, there was an understanding that State policies that did not recognize the dignity of African Americans, would not apply at Alabama-based Tuskegee.

During the Q&A (Question & Answer) period, students inquired mostly about majors. The panelists urged the students to study a variety of schools, public and private in order to find a school that best served their needs. 

Los Angeles Southwest College may be one of the early community colleges to provide such access to a diverse group of HBCU-panelists. It remains to be seen whether information-sharing between HBCUs and two-year colleges such as LASC will become the norm. However, two-year college students interested in a rigorous, yet nurturing college, or university, experience would do well to include HBCUs on their list of institutions of higher learning.


Minority Elites (MEs) on Elite Campuses: Time to Study this Group of Students

It is a common belief in higher education that the more exclusive one’s university, the better the possibility that students enrolled at said university will get the best education that money can buy. This is because elite, selective universities and colleges are thought to be well-endowed, and therefore able to marshal all of the necessary resources to ensure students’ success.

But no discussion of how university resources are used in order to benefit students can be complete without a discussion of, what I call, “ME’s”, or Minority Elites. Minority Elites are African-Americans, American Indians, Latino/as, and Asians who have been admitted to selective or highly selective institutions of higher learning. 

How do elites measure success? High graduation rates seem to be one obvious proof of success. So is completing an undergraduate degree in four years, and getting a job right after college.

In 2014, it seems anachronistic to think the word “minority” has the same relevancy as it did in the 1960s, for example. Yet, people of color (PoCs) are the subject of recent reports on the topic of race, ethnicity, class and higher ed.

What the literature says

Current research problematizes the experience of traditionally under-represented students (minorities) who attend colleges and universities in the U.S. To sum up the current findings, and note, what I am about to report is a generalization, more traditionally under-represented students (African-Americans, Latino/as) are attending college, but they generally attend what are considered to be schools that are fairly easy to get in to and this is a problem because those schools are generally not very good at providing the kind of resources that are provided to students at elite, and predominantly white, universities. Thus, racial inequality and segregation are exacerbated by higher education, according to a report by Carnevale and Strohl (2013) discussed in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Therefore, the old 1960s topic of inequality is the new topic of debate. 

Another trend in higher education, according to the  _New York Times, _is the increasing number of students from abroad who attend elite colleges and universities. The long-term effect of international student matriculation through American institutions of higher education may be a new area of research. Of particular interest is the impact of these changing demographics on African-American, Native American, and working-class American MEs, and their quest to obtain educational equity with majority peers. For example, will the question of academic standards still be relevant when discussing international-student enrollment? What about remedial education? 

Americans traditionally think of education as the great equalizer. Look at the historic work of the entrepreneurial educator Booker T. Washington, in order to understand the role education has played in the lives of so many African Americans and working-class Americans.

Black elite students have historically relied on a network of colleges and universities that have acceped them when it was  illegal, or socially unacceptable to educate dark-skinned people in America. The question for today’s society is can elite schools do as good a job as other schools have in accepting students who do not fit the traditional college-going demographic? after all, the mission of many HBCUs has been to educate all.

Educators, and philosophers, cultural studies theorists, and historians may wonder how can elite institutions provide the kind of nurturing that black, brown, and economically disenfranchised students who wish to attain a higher education through hard work have come to expect?

Related articles

Fs_cid%3Drss%3Areport-higher-education-creates-white-racial-privilege&a=189878161&rid=00000336-3066-000F-0000-00000000003b&e=77e3d12e850c8cffc58c65baa34cfbb1″ target=”_blank”>Report: Higher Education Creates ‘White Racial Privilege'(usnews.com)

Feedback: Is It Necessary?

You are working with a student who as been out of college for a while, but who is returning for self-development, and a zeal for intellectual challenge. You notice she/he needs help transitioning from a style of writing that helped make him/her a star copy writer for an advertising firm, but that might not serve her/him well as a returning student.

At your weekly tutoring sessions, you review the student’s increasingly more complex sentence structure and notice great improvement. You want to encourage the student. But you are afraid to heap too much praise for fear of breaking the student’s stride.

Here are some questions to consider. At what point in the tutoring relationship do you and the client review the progress that has been made? Do you require clients to keep a journal on their progress? Do you share your notes chronicling the student’s progress with the student?

Or is self-reflexivity unnecessary?


The Importance of Advising

Whether you are an undergrad or a grad student, academic advising is important. However, review of the literature shows that graduate students are often least likely to have access to good academic advisors.

But what is good academic advising?

Good advising consists of receiving helpful information on a regular basis and in a timely manner, being socialized into the role of the academic, working with faculty who model successful behavior, and working with faculty who care about the success of students.

Please contact me if you would like additional information, including resources on the topic of good advising.