In the World of HBCUs, Research Must Inform Practice

By Dr. Marybeth Gasman

Quite often students and others ask me why I do research — What’s the purpose?  Does it make change?  Am I doing research to fill journals and books that very few people read?  The answer for me and most of my faculty colleagues is “No”!  Most of us became faculty members because we wanted to shape and influence the minds of young people.  And, we wanted to use our writing and research skills as well as our voices to make positive and systemic change in the world.  I personally seek to understand and make change in the world of HBCUs.  Fortunately, there are quite a few scholars conducting research related to HBCUs.  I thought I’d use this week’s blog entry to highlight some of these individuals and their work.  I hope that those of you who work at HBCUs and are interested in the future of HBCUs will take a look at the work of these scholars.  Their work, by and large, shows the positive impact that HBCUs have in the nation — providing much needed empirical evidence that policymakers, the media and the public crave.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, here is an interesting article:

Renee Akbar & Michele Sims, “Surviving Katrina and Keeping our Eyes on the Prize: The Strength of Legacy and Tradition in New Orleans’s HBCU Teacher Preparation Programs,” Urban Education, (July 2008), vol. 43, no.4.

And in this world of changing technology, this article might be helpful:

Brigitta Brunner & Lori Boyer, “Internet Presence and Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Protecting Their Images on the World Wide Web,” Public Relations Review, (March 2008), vol. 34, no. 1.

To explore the role of HBCUs in preparing the leaders of corporate America, see:

Robert Boyd, “Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Black Business Elite,” Sociological Perspectives, (Winter 2007), vol. 50, no. 4.

For an up-to-date examination of graduation outcomes at HBCUs:

Valerie Rawlston Wilson, “The Effect of Attending an HBCU on Persistence and Graduation Outcomes of African American College Students,” Review of Black Political Economy, (Fall 2007), vol. 34, no. 1/2.

To explore issues of gender and student engagement, check out:

Shaun Harper, Robert Carini, Brian Bridges, & John Hayek, “Gender Differences in Student Engagement Among African American Undergraduates at Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” Journal of College Student Development, (2004), vol. 45, no. 3. 

For those practitioners in the area of student affairs administration, see:

Joan Hirt, Terrell Strayhorn, Catherine Amelink, and Belinda Bennett, “The Nature of Student Affairs Work at Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” Journal of College Student Development, (2006), vol. 47, no. 6.

If you are interested in the impact of an HBCU education on African American males, see:

Robert Palmer & Marybeth Gasman, ” ‘It Takes a Village to Raise a Child’: The Role of Social Capital in Promoting Academic Success for African American Men at a Black College,” Journal of College Student Development, (January/February, 2008), vol. 49, no. 1.

And lastly, this article provides a rigorous examination of HBCUs’ impact on the labor market:

Terrell Strayhorn, “Influences on Labor Market Outcomes of African American College Graduates: A National Study,” The Journal of Higher Education, (January/February, 2008, vol. 79, no.1.

An associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gasman is the author of Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of Understanding Minority Serving Institutions  (SUNY Press, 2008).

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