Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Centricity and the Mentoring Experience in Academia: An Africentric Mentoring Paradigm

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Centricity and the Mentoring Experience in Academia: An Africentric Mentoring Paradigm

Article excerpt


Accessing a true mentoring relationship is difficult for most undergraduate students and rare for minority students. Mentoring relationships cannot "deliberately" be created or forced to grow. Mentoring relationships demand time and energy on both sides, and requires depth and devotion. As such, most successful mentoring relationships are informal and often develop through personal relationships that can only be developed when individuals care, respect and understand each other's perspective or point of view (Willie & Cunnigen, 1981; Moses, 1989; Blackwell, 1983; Jacobi 1991; Kuh & Whitt, 1988; Alleman, 1984).

Over the last two decades, the mentoring process and dozens of models have emerged to explore this complex relationship, as well as its strategy to impact the college success of minority students, particularly African American students at Historically White and Black Colleges and Universities (Allen, 1992; Moses, 1989). This work will explore research on the "mentoring experience" and the development of a mentoring process that utilizes an Africentric perspective.

Literature Review

African American college students historically and presently face many obstacles in receiving a college degree (Allen, 1992). Although Historically Black Colleges and Universities provide the most nurturing and supportive environment for African American college students, African American college students still predominantly select Historically White Colleges and Universities for their college experience. As a result, they still encounter alienation, isolation and academic difficulty (Allen, Epps & Haniff, 1991, Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991; Allen 1992; Gray, 1989).

Formal mentoring programs over the last 15 years have attempted to provide African American students with academic and social integration in order to be successful in their matriculation process (Valadez & Duran 1991; Blackwell, 1983). These programs have focused on providing African American students with a mechanism to interact within the educational pipeline. Despite this fact, a vast amount of the "formal" mentoring programs have been based on what is needed for the white male to succeed in higher education (Harris, 1993).

In addition, traditional definitions of mentoring view the relationship as a developmental, one-on-one relationship between two people exclusively, one inexperienced and one experienced (Levinson, 1978; Merriam, 1988; Zey, 1983; Kram, 1983). From this perspective, mentoring can be viewed as a linear relationship in which the mentor and mentee/protegee move through stages from independence to dependence. One primary goal of traditional mentoring paradigms is self-replication in terms of transforming the mentee/protegee into the "mentor" as well as developing skills and competencies needed to be competitive such as "survival of the fittest" (Moses 10; McCormick & Titus, 1991; Blackwell, 1983; Willie & Cunnigen 1981).

Also, there is considerable debate in the field concerning a "universal definition" of what mentoring is (Jacobi, 1991, Harris, 1994). However, by limiting the examination of mentoring based on one universal definition, the personal, complex nature of the mentoring experience by under-represented groups such as African American students, who do not fit into a male-oriented, competitive, individualistic profile, will be excluded. Despite this fact, traditionally, Eurocentric models of mentoring in the literature on mentoring for college students have persisted for more than twenty years and have been applied to a variety of minority groups, especially African American college students, without any regard to their sociocultural history (Harris, 1993; Allen, Epps & Haniff, 1991; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Bey, 1995).

Mentoring programs and/or opportunities that provide African American students with positive self/ethnic images and empowerment within a holistic framework, represent an understudied area in the mentoring literature. …

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