Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Wellness and College Type in African American Male College Students: An Examination of Differences

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Wellness and College Type in African American Male College Students: An Examination of Differences

Article excerpt

African American male students (N = 203) attending a historically Black college or university (HBCU) and a predominantly White institution (PWI) participated in a study to determine differences in wellness. HBCU students scored significantly higher than did PWI students on Friendship, Love, Sense of Control, and Gender Identity. PWI students scored significantly higher than did HBCU students on Sense of Worth. Implications and future research directions are suggested.


The number of African American men applying to and attending college has increased steadily since the 1970s according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES; KewalRamani, Gilbertson, Fox, & Provasnik, 2007). Furthermore, increasing numbers of African American men are attending predominantly White institutions (PWIs) rather than historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). HBCUs are those institutions of higher education established before 1964 specifically for educating African Americans. The trend of attending PWIs instead of HBCUs may have potential implications for African American students' college adjustment.

Several researchers have asserted that HBCUs promote academic environments conducive to learning for African American men (Ancis, Sedlacek, & Mohr, 2000; Chism & Satcher, 1998; Rodney, Crafter, Rodney, & Mupier, 1999). Many HBCUs operate from the perspective that opportunities for relationship development and social adjustment, provision of a nurturing institutional environment, and an emphasis on cultural identity formation all are critical for the African American male student's ability to survive in the higher education setting (Berger & Milem, 2000; Hoffman, Snyder, & Sonnenberg, 1996). This line of research has indicated that HBCUs attempt to offer a highly specialized college experience intended to promote better adjustment and greater success. In turn, African American students who attend HBCUs have experiences that are different from those of African American students who attend PWIs (Allen, 1992; Wells-Lawson, 1994).

Previous researchers have found that African American students may experience unique challenges when adjusting to PWIs. For example, Schwitzer, Griffin, Ancis, and Thomas (1999) used qualitative methods to study the social adjustment experiences of African Americans at a PWI. Using a descriptive model, Schwitzer, Griffin, et al. expanded on previous findings that African American students at PWIs have to adjust to feelings of aloneness and racism as they navigate their way through the academic curriculum.

Among the challenges African American male college students sometimes face at PWIs are exclusion from social activities, unwelcoming residence hall environments, less friendly peers, and racial problems undetected by their Caucasian counterparts (Johnson-Durgans, 1994; Rodney et al., 1999). Additionally, African American students attending PWIs often perceive faculty members, academic supports, and developmental services as uninviting and inaccessible (Stage & Hamrick, 1994). These challenges faced by African American students at PWIs can interfere with academic, social, and personal-emotional adjustment (Cokley, 2000; Schwitzer, Ancis, & Griffin, 1999).

One way to understand the effects of PWIs on African American men is to use the wellness paradigm (Myers, 1991), which can provide a comprehensive approach for developing new and effective interventions that may have particular salience when responding to the needs of African American college students. Myers defined wellness as a quest for humanity to achieve maximum functioning that encompasses the mind, the body, and the spirit. The wellness paradigm transcends the widely accepted illness-oriented medical model by advocating a holistic philosophical basis for development. All wellness models evaluate psychological well-being, which is conceptualized to be an internally focused method of attaching value to the quality of life and affective experience (Adams, Bezner, Drabbs, Zambarano, & Steinhardt, 2000). …

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