Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Editors' Introduction: Exploring Doctoral Student Socialization and the African American Experience

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Editors' Introduction: Exploring Doctoral Student Socialization and the African American Experience

Article excerpt

The 2014 Survey of Earned Doctorates reports the highest number (54,070) of doctoral degrees conferred by US institutions (from 1957 to 2014) (National Science Foundation, 2014). Within this period, doctoral degrees awarded to underrepresented students increased. In particular, doctorates earned by Blacks and/or African Americans increased by 70% between 1994-2014. This growth underscores what Willie, Grady, and Hope (1991) assert in their work, African Americans and the Doctoral Experience: Implications for Policy and Practice, that the opportunities for Blacks to obtain doctoral degrees was limited largely to the second half of the 20th Century. In the case of the 21st Century, doctoral degree production for Blacks appears to be steadily increasing. While these numbers seem promising in terms of the pathways available to pursue doctoral education for Blacks/African Americans, who have been historically marginalized and excluded from educational spaces, it's important to reflect upon why opportunities did not always exist to understand the historical and current trends of participation affecting the doctoral student experience for Blacks/African Americans today.

Prior to the 1970's some of the only opportunities for Blacks/African Americans available to pursue doctoral education existed at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). These institutions are credited for supporting the academic excellence and success of this student population and have been touted as the primary producers of their graduate and professional degrees. These institutions are resourceful in addressing the psychological effects of racism, discrimination, and inequity in our society that have served to exclude students from doctoral education at predominately White institutions. These effects have been long-standing and there are numerous implications regarding their influence on the doctoral experience today. Given the scope and expansion of doctoral degree attainment beyond HBCUs, this volume of The Western Journal of Black Studies focuses on the psychosocial issues influencing the experiences of Black/African Americans and the ways they shape doctoral student socialization. The psychosocial experience in this work is shaped by literature on racial ideology, centrality, and socialization concepts (Felder, Gasman, Stevenson, 2014). The authors in the this volume considers the ways race influences aspects of the doctoral experience including (but not limited to): the student-faculty relationship, academic advisement, the role of social networks, the influence of prior academic and social experience, the impact of mentorship, the value of programmatic support in building cultural wealth, and understanding the transitions towards the professoriate. The psychosocial issues addressed in the volume only scratch the surface in examining the effects of exclusion on doctoral degree completion.

The psychosocial issues influencing doctoral student socialization for historically marginalized students are numerous and have far-reaching effects on our system of education. Critically examining literature related to these issues is essential to constructing dialogues that interrogate systemic barriers of injustice and inequity that influence transitions towards doctoral degree completion. These barriers serve to hinder the academic socialization within the experiences of historically marginalized doctoral students; thus, creating and sustaining vulnerabilities in our national system of graduate education. As such, this volume supports findings in seminal research reports like The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the United States (2010) by highlighting why Black/African American doctoral students and degree completers are important national assets. And, identifying aspects of the socialization experience that hinder success and promote attrition. Furthermore, this volume emphasizes aspects of doctoral student socialization that are supportive of transitions towards degree completion and transitions into the academy including: strategies to attract and retain Black/African American doctoral students; advisement and mentoring; developing supportive programmatic efforts, and building social networks that allow students to positively engage (and participate) in their communities. …

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