A sense of community? : voices of undergraduate African American women at a predominately white southern institution
MetadataShow full item record
A sense of belonging and connection to community on campus is imperative for a student’s successful college experience. Developing community at institutions of higher education is as significant today as it was when Boyer (1990) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching published Campus life: In search of community. Today’s college campuses more closely reflect the diversity of the larger communities they serve; yet most campus policies and procedures have not been adjusted to reflect this diversity. The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify the perceptions of a select group of undergraduate African American women about their experiences with community on-campus at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), a predominately White Southern institution. The higher education institution and participants chosen for this study were selected using purposeful sampling. Efforts were made to learn about the students’ views from their own voices. Data was collected through focus group and individual in-depth interviews. Additionally, a pilot study and peer debriefers were employed. Two research questions guided the study: (1) How do undergraduate African American women characterize community on campus at The University of Texas at Austin, a predominately White Southern institution of higher education? and (2) How do undergraduate African American women describe their experiences with respect to community on campus at The University of Texas at Austin, a predominately White Southern institution of higher education? Findings suggest that the characterization of community includes four major themes: Ideal Community Attributes; Frustration; Diversity; and Groups. Findings also indicate that undergraduate African American frmale students’ experiences include: Support Networks; On-Campus Residence; Physical Space; Connection to Other African American Students; Disappointment in Peers; Relationships with Non-Black Students; Divide in the African American Student Community; Competition; Mentors; Faculty Accessibility; and Subtle Racism. Although research is meant to have certain generalizability, the researcher notes that it is important to remember that all students have unique history, perceptions, experiences and challenges. Thus, further inquiry may illuminate how to connect better with individuals and may lead to the development of a framework that higher education educators may utilize to support student success.