Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Feeding the Pipeline toward the Doctorate: Examining the Formal Mentoring Experiences of Black Undergraduate Students

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Feeding the Pipeline toward the Doctorate: Examining the Formal Mentoring Experiences of Black Undergraduate Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

Although discourse about the Black doctoral education pipeline has focused on strategies to support Black students' toward specific careers (e.g., the professoriate, engineering, science, etc.), conversation related to efforts that feed the pipeline remain limited. There are leakages and a narrowing of the pipeline at every educational transition for Black students--from graduation from high school and enrollment in college to and through entry into doctoral programs and movement into faculty careers (NCES, 2013). Looking specifically at points along the college pipeline, 37% of Black traditional aged students were enrolled in college in 2013 (Table 302.65), but among undergraduate degrees conferred in 2013 only 10% went to Black students (Table 322.30), and in that same year Black doctoral degrees were just 7% of those awarded (Table 324.25). These statistics depict an increasingly smaller pool of Black students in the educational attainment pipeline and support the need for interventions that fix the leakages and increase the numbers of Black students moving on to doctoral education. These statistics also suggest that much progress is needed in the area of policies and practices that guide, retain, and inspire Black students toward doctoral education and beyond.

Mentoring exists as a practice to not only support students within the pipeline, but inspire and guide students into the graduate education and doctoral pipeline (Hathaway, Nagda, & Gregerman, 2002). Mentoring relationships between students and faculty widen educational and career horizons and assist students in building and realizing aspirations for the future (Crisp & Cruz, 2009; DeAngelo, 2009, 2010; Eagan, et al., 2013; Girves, et al., 2005). Metaphorically speaking, if the funnel to a pipeline is siphoned at its entrance by oppressive systems, discriminatory practices, and culturally insensitive change agents, the ultimate outcome (i.e., educational attainment and job placement) is reduced and negatively affected. To widen the funnel and increase the number of Black students within the doctoral pipeline, we engage in discourse related to feeding the pipeline through the socialization practice of mentoring in formalized undergraduate mentoring programs. All along the college to doctoral education pipeline mentoring is instrumental for Black students. From the decisions to attend college (Wallace, Abel, & Ropers-Huilman, 2000) to the choice to pursue graduate and doctoral education (Davis, 2007; Olson, 1988), and ultimately to success in doctoral programs, mentoring remains a key factor (Aryan & Guzman, 2010; Felder, 2010). Mentoring is especially crucial for students of color who benefit most when faculty mentors are willing to understand, unpack, and examine racial identity (Barker, 2007). The work of becoming aware, examining, and engaging in dialogue about the differences between mentors' and mentees' worldviews is crucial for mentors in cross-race mentoring relationships (Turner & Gonzalez, 2015). While cross-race mentoring is a reality at many predominantly White campuses, mentoring is a mainstay that transcends institutional types in higher education

Mentoring

While scholars across a variety of industries continue to use numerous definitions of mentoring (Jacobi, 1991), we use the definition most common in higher education, which emphasizes elements of reciprocity, growth, support, and activity (Crisp & Cruz, 2009). Mentoring relationships are characterized by liking as well as longevity (Kram, 1983) and informal in their development (DeAngelo, Mason, & Winters, 2015). In taking into consideration the myriad of definitions for mentoring across industry contexts and the numerous roles mentors play including those of coach, advisor, sponsor and counselor, Johnson (2016) defined mentoring in higher education as the following

   a personal and reciprocal relationship in which a
   more experienced (usually older) faculty member
   acts as a guide, role model, teacher, and sponsor
   of a less experienced (usually younger) student or
   faculty member. … 
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