Voices of Family Therapy Doctoral Students of Color: Aspirations and Factors Influencing Careers in Academia

By Miller, John K.; Stone, Dana J. | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Voices of Family Therapy Doctoral Students of Color: Aspirations and Factors Influencing Careers in Academia


Miller, John K., Stone, Dana J., Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


The authors examined factors influencing career aspirations of doctoral students of color in family therapy doctoral programs across the country, with a special focus on careers in the professoriate. Qualitative interviews were conducted with students at varying levels of degree completion. Respondents discussed barriers to careers in academia as well as suggestions for overcoming these barriers.

Los autores examinaron los factores que influyen en Ins aspiraciones de carrera de estudiantes de color en programas de doctorado en terapia de familia por todo el pals, con un enfoque especial hacia Ins carreras en profesorado. Se Ilevaron a cabo entrevistas cualitativas con estudiantes en distintos puntos previos a la conclusion del programa. Los participantes comentaron Ins barreras para el acceso a carreras en el mundo academico, asi como sugerencias para superar esas barreras.

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Change will not come if we wait .for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

--Barack Obama, 2008

The population of the United States is becoming increasingly more diverse. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2006b), Hispanics (18.5%), African Americans (16%), Asian/Pacific Islanders (5.5%), and Native Americans (1.2%) together represent more than 41% of the total U.S. population of almost 300 million. From 1981 to 2005, American colleges and universities have attempted to make their student bodies reflect the racial and ethnic characteristics of the general population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006a). The percentage of undergraduate students of color has more than doubled from 11.2% in 1981 to 24% in 2005. The ethnic diversification of doctoral students of color also reflects an increase, from 8.4% in 1981 to 15.3% in 2005. There has been a parallel increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of the nation's faculty. In 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that racial and ethnic faculty members represented 19.8% (8.7% Asian/Pacific Islander, 5.5% African American, 3.5% Hispanic, 2.1% other) of all faculty across all institutions (Cataldi, Fahimi, & Bradburn, 2005). This is an increase from the reported 12.3% representation of racial and ethnic minority faculty in 1991 and 14.9% in 2001 (Ma, 2004). Nonetheless, faculty of color is still disproportionately underrepresented in higher education. Caucasians comprise 59% of the general population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006a) but account for 80.2% of the full-time undergraduate and graduate teaching force.

There is an established body of literature that focuses on graduate students of color in their respective programs of mathematics, sciences, social work, counseling, and special education (Bowie & Hancock, 2000; Herzig, 2004; MacLachlan, 2006; Wasburn-Moses, 2007). Much has been written about the recruitment and retention of graduate students of color (Rogers & Molina, 2006; Wright, 2003), minority student support programs (Maton, Kohout, Wicherski, Leary, & Vinokurov, 2006; Young & Brooks, 2008), mentorship (Davis, 2008; Thomas, Willis, & Davis, 2007), and academic experiences (Cole & Barber, 2003; Gay, 2004; Mahtani, 2004; Vasquez et al., 2006; Xae, 2005). A study by Wilson and Stith (1993) examined the experiences of African American master's-level students enrolled in family therapy programs. The authors suggested that some factors that influenced retention of students at the master's level include mentorship by at least one faculty member, role modeling, financial support, and connection with other students of color. In 2005, Miller and Lambert-Shute (2009) surveyed family therapy doctoral students from across the United States regarding career aspirations, training opportunities, and self-perceived level of preparedness for their chosen career. More than half of all respondents (57%, n = 47) reported their desire to become a professor, and the remaining respondents chose either private practice (22%, n = 18) or nonprofit agency work (20%, n = 17).

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