Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Workforce Education and Development

First Advisor

Baker, Clora

Abstract

The current study was conducted to examine the underrepresentation of African American Faculty in Illinois institutions of higher education. The researcher used the critical race theory and cultural proficiency theory to frame the study. The following research questions guided the study: (1) What challenges and barriers have African Americans experienced in receiving a quality education? (2) In what ways does family structure affect the success of African American professors toward the completion of a graduate degree? (3) What positive experiences have African Americans had throughout their educational career to encourage their pursuit of the professoriate? and (4) How can faculty diversity be obtained among institutions of higher education? The study employed a mixed-methods research design to examine the experiences of African American faculty members employed in Illinois higher education institutions. The quantitative portion of the study consisted of an online survey distributed to African American faculty members. The qualitative portion included both focus groups and interviews. Open-ended questions were designed to elicit information concerning the experiences of African Americans in their educational pursuit. An email survey was sent to 242 African American faculty members from throughout the state of Illinois. Of the 242 surveys, 216 were actually received by the intended participants. The study yielded a 43% return rate. The survey provided demographic information about Illinois higher education faculty members. It presented a synopsis of the population and the factors that affected a student's educational pursuit. In addition, the survey provided information on the family background and experiences from the faculty member's childhood throughout their college career and into their professional career. Focus groups were conducted to obtain the personal stories of African American faculty members regarding the experiences they have had in their pursuit of the professoriate. Three focus group sessions were held resulting in a total of 12 individuals participating. The challenges facing African Americans in obtaining a quality education were discussed along with discussion of their familial and educational history. This method provided a rich opportunity for discussion and insight into the lives of African American faculty members. Post-hoc interviews were conducted with six African American faculty members at a mid-western four-year research institution. These interviews provided additional information in order to connect the results of this study. The interviews presented interesting conversation and brought out different perspectives than the survey and focus groups had provided. Interview participants were asked about the positive aspects in their lives that encouraged them to pursue the professoriate. Familial and educational history was briefly discussed. The main topic of discussion for the interview sessions was the employment and tenure process for higher education faculty members and how faculty diversity can be achieved. It is recommended that students be encouraged from an early age to pursue academia as a career. College preparatory courses need to be included in the high school curriculum in order to prepare students for the collegiate environment. In addition, high school counselors should prepare all students for a college career of their choosing. New programs and procedures need to be developed and implemented. Funding programs and forgivable loans should be developed to ease the burden of educational expenses of minority students. Mentorship programs should be developed so students will have a person to go to if they need assistance or advice. Internships and teaching assistantships need to be a requirement in all disciplines. These opportunities provide valuable experience and make the students more employable upon graduation. Institutions should seriously consider hiring minority individuals prior to degree completion. There are many candidates in the pipeline and these people need to be approached and groomed for jobs in academia. Over and above all, faculty diversity needs to be included in the overall strategic plan of the institution. Central leadership and accountability for the diversification of faculty must start with the college president and be filtered down to the hiring bodies. Diversity policies and procedures must be developed and implemented in order to increase the presence of minorities in higher education institutions.

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