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In the continuing effort at popularizing my blog, I have begun the process of subscribing to others with similar emphasis. We’ll see if it works.  Here is a comment I posted on another blog this morning. Enjoy! 🙂

Listen ~ The move toward diversity is a business imperative. As the world shrinks and your market-population becomes more diverse, you will have to shift to accomodate that market. Remember – education is a product. The true challenge is recognize the market sector that you want to attract and delimit your conceptualization of “diversity” relative to that market. Why? Because you cannot be everything to everybody. If you do that, you run the risk of diversity meaning nothing to anybody. Have Fun!

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The coyote knew full well that despite his best efforts and the strongest ACME (sp) product available to him, there was no way he would ever catch the fleeting road-runner.  An anvil would crush him, he would fall into a deep chasm, or if all failed – they would go to commercial.  He knew it.  His wife knew it.  His children knew it. His neighborhood knew it. Every television show, book and movie reinforced it.  So he quit and drove a cab.  

In a recent self-identity study on 342 Afro and Indo-Caribbean students ages 8 – 11, respondents were invited to choose one of 5 male models (1 Asian, 1 East Indian, 1 White, and 2 Black) for the role of Medical Doctor, Security Agent, Police Investigator, Drug Pusher, or Janitor for an upcoming movie. 
Results indicated that
118 (35%) of students investigated chose the Indian model for the role of Medical Doctor in the movie, while 65 (19%) chose one of the two Black models for the same role.  Conversely, 63 (18%) of the students chose the Indian for the role of Drug Pusher while one of the two Black models was chosen to perform the role of the Drug Pusher by 168 (49%) of the respondents. 

In short: The East Indian students chose the East Indian for the role of the Medical Doctor.  The Black students chose the East Indian for the role of the Medical Doctor.  It was more likely for a Black student to choose a Black for the role of the Drug Pusher than it was for him/her to choose a Black for the role of the Medical Doctor.

Results suggest that regardless of the race of the respondents, East Indians were more likely to be perceived in the role of Medical Doctor – Blacks were more likely to be perceived in the role of the Drug Pusher. 

Of the 342 students tested, only 88 (26%) were of East Indian descent, while 254 or 74% were of Afro-Caribbean descent.

This study has very strong implications for the relationship between a child’s…a culture’s early identity development and academic success. It suggests that if evidence of success is not demonstrated within a child’s early environment (home, story books, neighborhood, movies, television shows, school, pictures, et cetera), the stories of “You can be whatever you want to be” are only rhetoric that we adults enjoy spewing for emotional and political release. 

…from a child the little coyote knew in his heart that there was no way he would ever catch the road runner…so he rejected that possibility – to himself.  Sad but True.   

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AA Success

The social and academic success of African American (AA) students within our current educational system continues to be an elusive goal. Social success deals with the idea of being wanted in the environment – the belief that you actually matter.  Academic success is the A, B, Cs – the appropriate matriculation through the system.  In any environment, the academic and social should be closely partnered. There is a convincing positive correlation between social engagement and academic success for all students.  This suggests that students who feel comfortably accepted in their environment tend to perform better academically. 

There is huge difference between being comfortably accepted and attempting to be accepted, or attempting to belong.  Current data demonstrates that AA students who aggressively “attempt to belong” show lower levels of academic success than those who do not.  It would suggest therefore, that part of ethnic minority student lack of success may lie in the amount of energy focused toward the polar opposites of engagement or disengagement from the social environment to the predominantly white institution (PWI).  Notice, I am not talking about the act of engagement or non-engagement, but the amount of energy employed in the process…energy that may be better spend on academic pursuits. Students who actively and aggressively alienate themselves from the predominantly white environment as well as those who try to fully engage seem to be less successful than those negotiate between those two poles.  

Many reasons have been put forward as part-explanations for the high drop-out/stop-out rates of AAs at PWIs.  These include financial insolvency, feelings of marginalization, low academic preparedness, coming from single-parent or broken homes, et cetera.  It is also true that despite these challenges, many AA students are successful.  The question, from a strengths-perspective becomes; “What factors can be identified as responsible for success in this population?”

Felice (2006) interviewed 10 first-generation, sophomore, AA male students at a Midwestern PWI, to determine the skills that each indentified as responsible for his success.  Students were interviewed independently.  Themes were then drawn from each interview and collapsed.

Results indicated that successful male AA students;

  1.  found/created social enclaves within the environment of the university,
  2. only engaged with the university to get specific needs satisfied,
  3. retained very close ties with their home environment (parents and/or friends),
  4. suggested that they saw themselves as representatives of friends, family, or cultural group that did not have that opportunity, and
  5. were committed to a sense of deferred gratification – each was going through current discomfort for a better tomorrow.  

The creation of social enclaves and the strong retention of ties to home and family, run counter to Tinto’s (1997) assertion that students who transition successfully invest time and energy in attempting to assimilate into the larger culture.  Successful AA students find a safe space.

This study does not reject Tinto’s findings.  It simply suggests that this may not be the process for successful AA students at PWIs.  If AA students do not see the potential for reward in their efforts to engage they would, quite justifiably, find spaces of emotional security until better could be done. We may, therefore, consider creating the environment for the development of these social enclaves.

In another study looking at AA versus White students’ feelings of connection to the university, Felice (2009) found that;

  1. 51% of White students interviewed indicated that they attend sporting and other University events versus 8.8% of Black students
  2. 67% of White students indicated that they wear their school colors around campus versus 21% of Black students
  3. 97% of White students felt themselves very connected to the University versus 62% of Black students, and
  4. 72% of White students identified themselves as a (mascot name placed here) through and through versus 25% of Black students.

It is interesting to note that despite feelings of disconnect, 40% of Black respondents suggested that they would consider giving money back to the University versus 49% of White.  Additionally, of the population interviewed, only 14% of White students identified themselves as first-generation versus 55% of Black students. This is of particular interest because a very different posture must be taken in engaging first generation students versus second-generation students – despite ethnicity.

Readiness for Academic Engagement:

There is also the concept of readiness for academic engagement – and the social culture that that perception breeds on campus. 

It is true that many of our AA students do not enter colleges and universities with the necessary level academic skill acquisition and academic competence as determined by the accepting institution. 

  1. This is many.  This is not all.  Many and all are two very different words, and as there is no way to identify the difference within the institution it raises everybody’s anxiety.
  2. This is also very true of many white students.  Yet it is not accompanied by the anxiety of the null hypothesis.
  3. Although the numbers of under-academically prepared white students is probably much higher than Black students, the percentages are much lower.  For example: If we have twenty out of one-hundred AA students under-prepared (20%), that is a much higher percentage than the three hundred out of ten thousand white students (3%). 
  4. This truth and perception leads to inter- and intra-anxiety amongst AA students and how they perceive themselves to be perceived by whites and each other. You begin to observe these students separating “themselves from themselves” on campus.  There is a lack of acknowledgement of each other in classes and on campus.

This separation of self from self is what I call the “Affirmative Action baby” syndrome.  It seems as if AA students, particularly males, are saying to themselves: “I am not an Affirmative Action baby.  You may be.” This area needs more research.

Notice we are talking about the emotional anxiety around the perception of academic preparedness.  The question therefore is “How do we shift that perception?” Given that perceptions are very well defended (stubborn), our positive changes must be aggressively marketed.

Demanding a Better Product…or Else:

Last time I checked, academic readiness for full inclusion into our environment was the forte of the high schools.  It is from these high schools that we draw our product. If the quality of the product is not as we would wish, we have four options.

  1. We accept the product.  Once we accept the product, knowing that it has deficits, it is our responsibility to fill those gaps. We have accepted the responsibility.
  2. We demand a better product from our wholesalers.  We do have the choice here of engaging in the preparation of the product, relative to our needs.
  3. We expand our recruiting umbrella.  In this instance, we search-out and create relationships with competing wholesalers. We no longer offer our current wholesalers the comfort of sending us sub-quality products.
  4. We establish our own wholesale producers.  In this instance, we actually establish a high school which meets the requirements for full inclusion into our environment.    

Inclusive Excellence:

The question becomes: “How do we attain a sense of inclusivity while retaining academic excellence?”  This will be the topic of another piece.

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Inclusive Excellence: The Prologue – Revisited

Universities are Businesses:

Universities are businesses.  They are in the business of selling both their college name (Harvard, Brown, Columbia) and what may accrue from having had an educational experience at their institution.   Universities are recognized for their area of expertise – or projected area of expertise.  We can all agree that it is easier to sell a degree in some aspect of Technology from MIT than a similar one from Florida State.  Conversely, it is easier to sell an experience as a four-year starter on the basketball team at Florida than it is from MIT.  Universities make their names and sell on the strength of those names.  This is not unlike any popular brand of shoe or restaurant. 

The best advertisements for a type of car are the consumer reports.  Ask the people who drive them or have driven them.

The best advertisements for a restaurant are the consumer reports.  Ask the people who frequent there or have frequented that restaurant.

Similarly, the best advertisements for a university are the consumer reports.  Ask the students who attend there or ask the alumni.   

There is a popular listing called the “Who’s Who” on which a number of universities are prominently displayed.   Universities are judged on the number of alumni they have listed in the Who’s Who of American life.  There can be a Who’s Who of prominent athletes or entertainers, academicians, or top 500 company executives.   This is, rightfully, part of the selling tool for any university.   That you can identify a number of people in the Who’s Who of American life, suggests to your recruits that they have a better than average potential of finding themselves in this rarest of groups.  The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (1996) identified Harvard as number one with a total listing of 17, 428.  Columbia ranked second with a listing of 12,159 citations.  Northwestern University with its 5,591 citations ranks third.

If listing in the “Who’s Who” of American life is a selling tool, if the size of your endowment is a selling tool, if the dominance of your football of basketball team is a selling tool, if touting the beauty of your campus is a selling tool: if all of these things are selling tools – then let us be very clear that “Education is a product to be marketed and universities are in the business of selling the promise of an educative experience.”   

Not everyone who purchases a product will be satisfied with either the product itself and/or his/her experience with purchasing that product.  Not everyone gives good reviews.  Not everyone who goes to a restaurant is satisfied with either the food or the treatment.   Similarly, not everyone who attends a certain college or university will be satisfied with his/her experience.  However, we probably would agree that any place of business (other than congress) with a forty, fifty, or sixty percent-satisfactory rating would not survive very long.  In a recent study (Felice, 2010) a number of African American and White students attending a PWI were surveyed about their connection to the university.    

  • Sixty-seven percent (67%) of White respondents indicated that they wore their school colors around campus.  This compared with 21% of Black students. 
  • Seventy-two percent (72%) of White respondents identified themselves as “A (insert school mascot name) through and through.”  Twenty-five percent (25%) of Black students identified closely with their school.  
  • Ninety-seven percent (97%) of White respondents described themselves as “very connected to the University.”  This compared with 62% of Black students.   
  • Of great interest was that 14% of White students identified themselves as first-generation whereas 55% of Black students suggested that they were. 

Determining the level of connectedness to campus between first and second-generation African American students may be of interest.  We may also wish to ascertain the levels of connectedness perceived by African American students at HBCUs versus African American students at PWIs.  

 How then do colleges and universities with African American and Latino retention rates in the forty, fifty, or sixty percent range survive?  The answer is that colleges and universities are businesses.  African Americans and Latinos are not a market that challenges the success of that business.  In other words, there is no appreciable loss of income to accrue because of the low retention rates.  There are also no external regulatory bodies that hold these schools accountable.  Higher education is a business.  The rules of business must apply.       

Before any new product is brought to market, a need is determined and target population is identified.  The product is then thoroughly researched and piloted within that target population.  Products are only sold within viable markets.  If there is no target population, or if the target population is too small to sustain a viable business, the product will not be sold within that market.  For example; there are certain television channels and programs within the New York market that do not exist in Wisconsin.   In a recent study of 88 Dish channels in Madison Wisconsin, (Felice, 2009) only 10 (11.4%) had any identifiable African Americans either in program or advertisement. 

If the market exists and there is market demand, the product will come.   The evidence of a market and the potential for financial gain (given investment) will bring the product to market.   There is no need to create a product or sustain a market if there is no potential for financial reward. 

Forbes magazine has identified Madison, Wisconsin as “second in the nation in overall education.”  Madison, Wisconsin is well known as a college town.   It would be wise, therefore, to consider bringing the business of education to Madison, Wisconsin.  A brief review of colleges or universities either situated of holding a branch in Madison reveals – The University of Wisconsin, Edgewood College, Madison College formerly MATC, Madison Media Institute, Herzing University, Cardinal Stritch, Concordia University-Madison,  Globe University, Lakeland University, Upper Iowa University, and the  University of Phoenix.  (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison,_Wisconsin#Education).  Despite having one of the ten largest public universities in the country, these other businesses survive.   If there is a viable market, the product will be brought. 

However, there must also be the potential for financial loss if the product is sub-standard.  Without that leverage (potential for financial loss) there will be no motivation for change…regardless of title.     

If there is to be any fundamental change in the marketing of education to any particular population, you must first demonstrate to the university how that shift is in its best financial interest, or lack of shift will cost.  These are ultimately financial decisions that balance on costs-benefits analyses.  

A Shift in Rhetoric:

We have seen a shift, over time, from the rhetoric of Multiculturalism to one of Diversity, to our most recent alliteration – Inclusive Excellence.  We must recognize that the success of this movement hinges on our ability to demonstrate to our university how this investment makes financial sense to them.   

Williams & Wade-Golden (2008) offer a brilliant chronicle of the development of what they describe as the “three related diversity systems” through the Affirmative Action and Equity model, the Multiculturalism and Inclusion model, to the Learning and Diversity model.  (Please see Williams & Wade-Golden – 2008 for greater explication of the models.)  What strikes me is that despite the shift in rhetoric and the increased attention given to different populations, African American and Latino students continue to be so terribly outpaced relative to their ability to successfully matriculate through a higher education program.  These students continue to be woefully behind in graduation rates at most major institutions of higher learning.  Despite the terms we use, therefore, the interventions must be targeted to the unique challenges faced by each population.  Consider the training regimen of a professional football athlete.  You won’t train a tight-end the same way you prepare a running back, or a wide receiver.  Similarly, as much as we recognize that there are similarities in the discrepancies that each population faces relative to access and/or success, each must be identified individually and the targeted intervention must be particular to that population or sub-set of that population. 

We now have a new rhetoric of Inclusive Excellence (IE).  What does that mean?  How is this new or newly minted effort not pre-destined to the same poor fate of all the other wonderfully titled models?  And what does this have to do with a university being a business? 

Affirmative Action:

Over the past twenty years, the concept of Affirmative Action has been successfully marketed and sold (to all of us) on the pretext that one particular group (African Americans) was getting a leg-up…an unfair advantage on the competition.  It has been suggested that these students were not competent and were given the space of some more readied White student.  This is far from the truth.  But the rhetoric of Affirmative Action overcame the reality of it.  Eventually, the rhetoric became the reality.  Over the past two decades we have witnessed the dismantling to Affirmative Action to the point that the term is now rarely used. 

This has had a very negative, yet lasting effect on the psyche of African American students at Predominantly White Institutions (PWI).  The term Affirmative Action Baby has been coined and used in the pejorative to identify all African American students on certain predominantly white campuses.   The effort to vilify and marginalize has been amazingly successful.  Relatively recent court decisions (Gratz v. Bollinger, 2003; Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003; University of California v. Bakke, 1978) and propositions (Proposition 209, CA – 1996; Proposition 2, MI – 2006) have dramatically affected the number of African American applications to and students being accepted at a variety of institutions.  Affirmative Action is a contentious issue that has affected the way many faculty, staff and students view African Americans on campus – and the way African Americans have come to view themselves and others like themselves.

In a recent study of forty-two (42) AA students on a PWI (Felice, 2010), students were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “Many times I notice that Blacks do not acknowledge each other on campus.  They walk past each other.”  Thirty (30) of the 42 students agreed with the statement.  Although no follow-up was asked, a number of students delayed long enough, seemingly with a need to expand.

 One male student offered;

“It’s just two of us in the class…and he lives in my dorm.  It’s as if he’s scared to acknowledge that he’s Black.  Like they will take his grades or something. It happens all the time on this campus.”

Other students nodded, many of them sharing their own experiences.

It would seem that AA students have both internalized and projected the poison of Affirmative Action onto others like themselves.   There seems to have been a strong inter- and intra-ethnic separation around the issue of Affirmative Action being played out on our predominantly white campuses.  More research on the effect of Affirmative Action of the psyche of African American students on Predominantly White campuses is needed.

One would recall that the messages of many of our leaders who benefitted from Affirmative Action, and declared so, were either not advanced or summarily dismissed.  Recall some of the rhetoric around the advancement of our newest Chief Justice, our current President and our current First Lady.   (If you wish to read further on this issue please follow http://www.nationalcenter.org/AA.html.) 

Given these challenges (University of Michigan, Berkeley, et cetera) we no longer speak loudly and aggressively of Affirmative Action, and have shifted our rhetoric to more inclusive language of Multiculturalism and Diversity.   

Multiculturalism:

The term Multiculturalism has held much better than Diversity.  There is very little negative press on it, but it clearly has not advanced the academic progress of African Americans much more than would be expected with natural regression to the mean.  It is clearly a popular term.  There are currently Directors of Multicultural Centers, multicultural offices, multicultural dinners, multicultural classes, et cetera.  The problem with Multiculturalism seems to be that it has been easily marginalized.   You send students to that center in that office over in that building, or you have that one class that focuses on that one thing, or you have this one dedicated space on campus where all the multicultural student offices are housed.  There seems to have been no attempt at integration or “inclusivity.”  This, therefore, does not challenge the rest of the campus to participate other than to come to a dinner during Black History month, or to take a class in Women’s Studies or African American History or Counseling.  These centers and dinners, classes and dances, provide an important outlet and opportunities for students and staff to recognize “other.”  It has brought African American students in touch with African students, Hmong students, Latino students.  It has offered greater opportunities to dialogue and share ideas and histories.  It has played its safe role.

Diversity:

Diversity, on the other hand, has become that “catch-all” term that seems to identify any and all differences.  A brief Google search for Diversity yields plant diversity, business diversity, bio diversity, jurisdiction diversity, planet diversity, animal diversity, insect diversity, seed diversity, fauna diversity, and dance diversity among many many others.  Whereas diversity was meant to capture the process of becoming more inclusive, it has become a “catch all” term for any- and everything. 

Inclusive Excellence:

The term “Inclusive” attempts to bring everyone into the conversation.  It is similar to “multiculturalism” but more expansive…more inviting of ethnic, social, and cultural difference.  It expands to recognize gender, sexual identity and learning differences.  It is a brilliant “catch-all” phrase which, conversely, can be used to select and de-select.

I will use an analogy to explain the challenge we have with the concept of “inclusivity.”   Think that you visited your favorite farmers’ market and purchased a variety of beans to make a beautiful soup later that day.  What you have brought into your kitchens are different beans that cook at different temperatures.   Putting them all into the same pot at the same time is a wonderful idea, except that some of your beans will not be ready while others will probably have melted into the soup.  Creating a wonderfully inclusive soup or frappe with all these wondrous beans would be tremendous – but we would have to pre-prepare some of them first.   This is the same with the concept of “inclusivity” when attached to dealing with students.   We have enough evidence to tell us that certain populations are, on average, more readied than others to engage fully in the process of higher education.  If all are put at the starting line and left to fend for themselves, many will remain uncooked.  We have the data.  It is compelling. 

The concept of “excellence” suggests that we are not compromising the academic integrity of our institution for anybody: And we must not.   As with the analogy of the beans in the pot, this suggests that we must pre-prepare our students to engage fully in the experience of “inclusive excellence.”   We have four (4) choices available to us.

  1. Make different types of soup in separate pots.  Just buy one type of bean and make that soup.
  2. Put all the beans in one pot.  Who cooks will cook.  Who does not, will not.
  3. Pre-select your beans.  There may be some of these beans that have the potential to cook closer to each other.  This way we get the flavors of each bean.
  4. Pre-prepare your beans.  Have some readying while the others are in your slow-cooker.
  5. Make better selections – where and from whom you purchase your beans.   
  6. Get into the business of planting your own beans.  Create your own farm.

Let me quickly move these from beans and pots and make your choices relevant to our students’ success. 

  1.  Define your college or university clearly and be very particularly about the type of student you want in your school.
  2. Bring students in on any pretext and make as much money as you can.  They succeed, you take credit.  They fail you blame them, their upbringing, the government, the school district…anyone who would sit long enough for you to tag them with the responsibility.
  3. Be more selective with your students.   If you want inclusivity and you want excellence then (a) establish the profile of a student who will be successful in your environment, (b) know that you want difference…that you are seeking difference, and (c) go search for that student.   You know that success is not simply academic.  Go search for that student. 
  4. This is like the PEOPLE program and the Posse program and TRIO and all those other programs that aim to ready first-generation students for higher education.  These students need particular support.  Put the supports in place, clearly identify the students, place them in the programs, and ensure that they use them.   Appropriate use must be one of the conditions toward retention. 
  5. Search the country for schools that do a great in preparing first-generation science students, or ethnic minority math students.  These school and school districts exist.  Find them.  Partner with them.  Use your leverage.  Use your name…if you have one. 
  6. Start a private school for ethnic and social minority and first-generation kids.   Create your own farm! 

Closing Comments:

I opened with the comment that “universities are businesses.”  I would strongly advise that you take that to heart.  There are monies to be made, financial supporters to keep calm, and wallets to pry open.  If you want a university to purchase the concept of Inclusive Excellence, not simply as another initiative or a fancy looking letter opener, demonstrate to the university how the business of inclusive excellence will benefit them financially. 

The question is, “How do we marry a socio-cultural perspective with a business-marketing model?”

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Earlier today I was reading a blog.  The writer, in referencing a recent student meeting at the University of Iowa stated:  

Consider: if only white students feel comfortable or have the resources to succeed on a particular campus, it can then be concluded that such a university is not capable of teaching students of color. Not only does such a reputation help maintain a narrow enrollment of students of color—maintaining their marginalization on campus—it also perpetuates racist mythologies about the very potential of people of color to succeed. The same could be said of straight vs. queer students, and we don’t even have mechanisms for identifying LGBTQ students! If universities are truly committed to providing equitable opportunities for education, they need to step it up. They could have the best professors in the history of the world, but it wouldn’t matter if only straight, white men can effectively learn there. How pathetic is it that at almost every university, underrepresented populations of students have to continue to advocate for themselves?   http://zackfordblogs.com/2010/02/diversity-recruitment-retention-and-academic-integrity/

I was recently sitting with two friends discussing a project we were working on.  In the course of the conversation I was explaining the tenets of the Inclusive Excellence (IE) model that I’m developing, and would be unveiling very soon.  (The other blogs will give you greater insight into that.)   One of my friends turns to me and says; “You know I love you Al, but you know you’re selling out!” 

I understand his sentiments.  But I also understand those of the writer of the article above.   There is no external force that challenges these universities to change.  There is no Government agency that dictates to them.  They may offer suggestions, but they do not dictate that “x” level of change be made in “y” time.  This is not how universities are run.

Universities are businesses.  They work on a business model.  They gloat about their endowments.  They gloat about their alumni.  They do not bring you in unless you have one or two grants attached to your butt.  They are businesses.   This is not about social activism, and social change, and social responsibility.  All of that is fine…once it is viewed through the prism of “a good business move.”  Wake up!  This is not about hugging and singing cumbaya (sp).  We have a huge business to run and we have to bring in profits.  If you are proposing a change to what we do, then demonstrate how your proposal will add to the profitability and recognition of our university.   

Think of it this way: Let us say that you hire me as a top-flight baker in your company.  And all I have to do to get paid is sprinkle cinnamon on everything…all around the bakery.  A little cinnamon here.  A little cinnamon there.  Wafts of cinnamon.  If I get paid for sprinkling, why should I bake?  And if the people who buy the bakery products don’t too like the flavor of cinnamon…then maybe a cinnamon candle?  If I can talk and get the reward, there is absolutely no reason to do anything beyond the bare minimum…sprinkle cinnamon.

A university is a business.  They are in the business of selling promises; the promise of a future born through your four or six-year investment of time and money at this university.   You have to market that their investment in IE will pay off financially.  They will be able to sell bigger and better promises. 

The Board of Regents to our universities is invariably White.  They are White males.  They are White males who own businesses.    They are White males who worked hard to build a profitable business.  They come together to secure the history and the integrity of the university.  Part of retention of the history is not making dramatic changes.  A change is dramatic when your alumni begin to get antsy.  They do not want their alumni to get antsy.  Why?  Because their alumni have big check books and pens that actually write.  Why change that?  Your social activism model makes no sense!    

So it is not that your Board of Regents has anything against increasing your population of Black, or Brown students.  Very few of them really care about that.  My friends keep telling me about “White men this” and “White men that.”  So?  Show them the money potential and they will invest in it.   

I understand everything you’re saying and I agree with you.  I am also telling you that you will get nowhere unless you incorporate/employ a business model toward the achievement of your goal of greater inclusion.  You Board of Regents concern is “How does it not scare off my alumni?”  To achieve this you must provide clear costs-benefits analysis.   Bring that to the table and you are having a real conversation.  Other than that, the best you can get are platitudes, more meetings, more forums, more puffs of cinnamon.

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Inclusive Excellence IV: The Plan

Now you have the job.  You have your Chancellor’s back and he/she has yours.  The relationship has been established.  

Time to get to work.

I am going to use a real-life situation so you can see aspects of the model in action.  There are going to be gaping holes in the model.  That’s why we call it a model.  The game plan is that you take it, and match the major aspects of the model…the hinges upon which it sits, to your particular social and cultural environment. 

Know that each situation is different.  Each university is different.  You will have to match your intervention to fit the particulars of your university – it’s size, the particular state it is in, where you draw your students from, the type of weather you enjoy, et cetera.   These particulars, which may seem peripheral, are integral to your success in attracting students to your university.  I will revisit this point later in the presentation. 

 You will also find similarities.  There are certain similarities to all universities despite size or geography.  Then there are similarities that small universities enjoy, others particular to large universities, others to Midwestern universities, and other still to Southern universities.   Certain aspects in the model, therefore, can cross…can be used anywhere.   However, to make this model work, you will have to take the skeleton and clothe it in the body relevant to your situation and circumstance.   This means that you have to know your particular situation and circumstance.   That is the very first thing.  This too, I will get back to.  But you can place it as number one right now.

Throughout this piece, I am going to propose that you do a number of things and ask a number of questions.  What I will also do is attempt to consistently link both the directives and the challenges back to Inclusive Excellence (IE).  I will try to explain what these questions have to do with moving your university toward IE. 

Finally, do not expect a straight-line solution to this challenge.  Just as with any good recipe for creating a cake, you bring in diverse elements, mix them together in appropriate proportion, and then allow it to bake at the appropriate temperature.  Work diligently but be patient.   Remember that it is not as if everybody wants you in their kitchen in the first place.  Many are very happy with the cup cakes they have enjoyed over the past fifty years!  They are none-too-happy about you being in their kitchen tinkering with stuff.  It is okay to have the rhetoric of change.  In fact, many of us have been hired to lead the rhetoric of change.  But when you begin the process of change (a) it is not linear, and (b) there is a necessary process of grief that will be incurred.  This is another piece I hope we will discuss.    

Here we go.

1.     Learn Your Town/City.

This means that you learn everything about the place that you are going to.  

  1. When was your town/city built and why was it was built?  What were the social-historical circumstances that led to its being built?  What is its financial profile?  What is its social profile?   What percentage of your residents has attained a four-year degree?  How slowly or quickly does your town/city change?  What percentage of the population in your town/city is retained?  What percentage was born in the town/city, grew up there, went to school there, and still resides there?  Is your town/city a manufacturing based economy, a technology-based economy, or are you a university town where a large percentage of the economy revolves around the university?  Is your community heavily conservative, heavily democratic, or a mixture?  Would your town/city be considered an urban, suburban, or metropolis environment?  Do stores open late?  What is considered late?  Are there places within your town/city that ethnic and social minorities (to your town) can comfortably get needs met – haircut, meal, music, et cetera?  Are there available radio and television channels that serve or recognize ethnic and/or social minority populations? 

This is an incomplete list of the questions you have to answer before anything else can be done.

2.     Learn Your University.

This means that you learn everything about the place that you are going to.

  1. I know that you guys meet with all the social and ethnic groups and/or their representatives.  That is great.  I know that some of you even have informal meetings with students.  Beautiful.   I also know that many of you have great climate surveys commissioned.  Wonderful.  Let me add a little bit to your hard work. 

When was your university built, why was it built, how was it established? What type of students does it attract?  Are they first-generation or second-generation?  Where do they come from?  Are they primarily from within the community, within the state, adjoining states, or from all around the country and the world?  How wide is its net?  If given the names of a number of universities, which ones would your university think itself close to, relative to prestige?   Would it say that it matches up well against a University of Michigan, a UCLA, or Whitewater?  On what is that assessment based; numbers of students, strength of athletic program, strength of its academic program, endowment?  What is that assessment based on?  How accurate is that assessment?  Do the students agree?  Does the community agree with that assessment?  Does your university have a long history of support for and integration of ethnic and social diversity cultures, or is this process in its infant stages?  That you have had an ongoing process for years does not mean that there has been any or any substantial progress.   How committed are your ethnic and social diverse cultures to the university?  Do they attend your sporting events?  Do they purchase and proudly don your clothing? Do they bleed your colors or do they simply go to your school?   If I pick up the school newspaper, do I see myself reflected anywhere, or is it only in the sport section?   Am I evidenced anywhere in your alumni magazine?   What is the make-up of your Board of Regents?  How has that make-up shifted over the past fifty years… or has it? 

Here again – another incomplete list of questions that must be answered before anything can be done.

3.     Learn the Relationship Between the University and the Community.   

Here you are trying to find out if the university sees itself as an integral part of and player in the community, if the community and its attendant school district agree, and how that relationship might be demonstrated.  Some universities are the main employer in the community.  That is where the term “university town” comes from. For example: Madison, Wisconsin is a university town.  There is a very dramatic and much evidenced shift when the university is in recess.  Here are some of the questions you need answered.

  1.  What is the relationship between the community and the university?  How is that evidenced?  Are there any radio stations, stores, television stations, or barber shops that cater to diverse populations?  Do your students feel comfortable going down-town?  Do they pick up on-campus jobs or are there student jobs available downtown?   Do you have a rhythm and blues station?  Do you have a world music station?  Do you have clubs that students can feel comfortable at, or does that have to all happen on the campus?  Is there a self-imposed curfew that student hold themselves to?  That means, do they feel safe being off campus late at night?  How late do the buses run?   If I pick up the local newspaper, do I see myself reflected anywhere, or is it only in the sport section?    What is the relationship between the university and the school district?  How is that evidenced? Are there vibrant, ongoing academic relationships or is it that the university simply sends their teacher-education interns for the school district to absorb?  Are there ongoing tutoring, mentoring, and pre-college programs?  Is there a standing committee in discussion on this very issue of student readiness, recruitment and retention? 

These are some of the answers you will need addressed before you could move forward with this work.

After you get those answers, you have your data set and all cleaned-up; now you are ready to get to work on this thing. 

Let me take a few of these questions I have posed and answer them for you.  What I am doing here is simply giving you an example and explaining, as I go along, why this information is so important to your success in developing an intervention strategy.  Yes, it is an intervention strategy.  If things were going right, you wouldn’t need intervention.  Just the admission of a wish for intervention suggests that something is not as you wish or expect it to be.

That is next.

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AA Success: A K-12 Model

The social and academic success of African American (AA) students within our current educational system continues to be an elusive goal. Social success deals with the idea of being wanted in the environment – the belief that you actually matter.  Academic success is the A, B, Cs – the appropriate matriculation through the system.  In any environment, the academic and social should be closely partnered. There is a convincing positive correlation between social engagement and academic success for all students.  This suggests that students who feel comfortably accepted in their environment tend to perform better academically. 

There is huge difference between being comfortably accepted and attempting to be accepted, or attempting to belong.  Actually, AA students who attempt to belong show lower levels of academic success than those who do not.  Both those who actively and aggressively alienate themselves from the environment as well as those who try to belong seem to fare poorly.  Think of it as a Bell curve or an inverted U where students on each extreme demonstrate low levels of success within the environment. They stop-out or drop-out at much higher levels than those in the middle of the curve. 

Felice (2006) interviewed 10 successful male AA students at a predominantly white university to determine what behaviors led to their success.  Results were unequivocal.  Successful male AA students at (a) found/created social enclaves within the environment of the university, (b) only engaged with the university to get specific needs met, and (c) retained very close ties with their home environment (parents and/or friends).  This finding runs counter to Tinto’s (1997) assertion that students who transition successfully invest time and energy in attempting to assimilate into the larger culture.  This study does not reject Tinto’s findings.  It simply suggests that this may not be the process for successful AA students. If AA students do not see the potential for reward in their efforts to engage, whether true or learned, they would, quite justifiably, find spaces of emotional security until better could be done, or they interpret the discomfort and estrangement as part of the “cost of success.”  

There is also the concept of readiness for academic engagement.  This deals with academic skill acquisition and academic skill competence.  It is true that many of our AA students do not enter colleges and universities with the level of academic readiness as determined by the accepting institution. 

  1. This is many.  This is not all.  Many and all are two very different words, and there is no way to identify the difference within the institution so it raises everybody’s anxiety.
  2. This is also very true of many white students.  Yet it is not accompanied by the anxiety of the null hypothesis.
  3. Although the number of under-academically prepared white students is probably much higher, the percentages are much lower.  If we have twenty out of one-hundred AA students under-prepared, that is a much higher percentage than the three hundred out of ten thousand white students. 
  4. This leads to inter- and intra-anxiety amongst AA students and how they perceive themselves, and how they perceive themselves to be perceived.  You begin to see them separating themselves from themselves on campus.  They don’t say hello.  They don’t acknowledge each other on campus. 

Notice we are talking about the emotional anxiety around academic preparedness and the perception of academic under-preparedness.  Last time I checked, academic preparedness was the forte of the wholesalers who sell the product to us.  Conversely, once we accept the product, knowing that it has deficits, it is our responsibility to fill those gaps. 

If you do not want the responsibility of filling those gaps, then do not accept the kids who have academic deficits.  If you accept those kids who have academic deficits and have consistently demonstrated low success rates at filling those gaps, then either (a) you are really horrid at your job and need to be fired, or (b) your job is really not to produce a successful product.  You are here for the process of accepting – – – and there must be some financial reward for accepting with no cost for poor performance.

If “b” is true, and there seems to be pretty solid evidence that it might be, then either (a) AA students need to stop coming, (b) an external cost-for-failure must be put in place, or (c) AA students must come only to satisfy their needs, however “their needs” is to be defined.

Say “hello” to the billion dollar industry of football and basketball.

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