Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Impact of Race and Gender on Graduate School Socialization, Satisfaction with Doctoral Study, and Commitment to Degree Completion

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Impact of Race and Gender on Graduate School Socialization, Satisfaction with Doctoral Study, and Commitment to Degree Completion

Article excerpt


As graduate program officers intensify their recruitment of minorities and women, graduate school deans, department heads, and faculty members more frequently confront issues beyond academic ones. The issue of race and education that drove parts of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s has not disappeared even though the doors to select colleges and universities have opened to students of color and women. Battles for educational equity are not violent, as they were thirty years ago. Twenty-first century educational warfare consists of quiet battles, but just as intense for many Black students and women who pursue doctoral degrees in predominantly White colleges and universities. This study examines some of these struggles for educational equity.

Most students in doctoral degree programs in select colleges and universities are White (The Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1999). Although the numbers of Black students have increased, Black students are still very much in the minority in doctoral programs. This lack of diversity among doctoral students is a concern to administrators, faculty members, and policy makers alike, for future university professors will come from these doctoral programs. In order to increase the pool of minority graduate faculty members, specifically Blacks, from which colleges and universities can hire, opportunities must be provided for Black students (both men and women) and women of all races to participate and succeed at the doctoral level (Berg & Ferber, 1983; Blackwell, 1987; Brown, 1988, 1992; Chamberlain, 1988; Solmon, 1976; and Wilkerson, 1987).

This study has investigated the experiences of Black male and female doctoral students as well as those of White men and women. The inclusiveness of the sample allowed the investigator to explore other theories that suggest that graduate school experiences may vary by race and/or gender (Carter, Pearson, & Shavlik, 1988; Nerad & Miller, 1988; Nettles, 1990; Sandler, 1986; Turner & Thompson, 1993; and Wilkerson, 1987). Among the participants are graduates of doctoral programs and students who were in the process of completing doctoral degrees. The objective was to determine if any discernible differences influenced graduate school socialization, satisfaction with graduate study, and commitment to completing the doctoral degree. This paper addresses socialization and satisfaction only.

Literature Review

There is an increasing body of literature that focuses on the experiences of graduate students in American universities. Although there is a smaller body of literature that investigates the experiences of specific groups during doctoral study, this body of literature continues to grow. The literature published before the 1970s rarely addressed the experiences of Black graduate students. The number of Blacks in graduate education was not very high prior to 1970 and the challenges that Blacks faced entering graduate programs, specifically doctoral programs, did not appear to make many research agendas. It is also possible that some of the studies that examined issues of race and education on the graduate level were not published during this racially volatile time.

In 1972 one of the most important publications on the experiences of Black students on predominantly White campuses was produced (Willie & McCord, 1972). Although Willie and McCord studied the lives of undergraduate students, their groundbreaking work may have opened doors to research on students of color in all areas of higher education, including graduate work. Many of the findings in the 1972 book provide conceptual frameworks for student development studies being done today, and they were significant contributors to this investigator.

The 1980s might be considered a period of growth for studies that investigated the higher education experiences of Black students on the undergraduate and graduate levels. …

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