Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Academe as Extreme Sport: Black Women, Faculty Development, and Networking

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Academe as Extreme Sport: Black Women, Faculty Development, and Networking

Article excerpt


In this article we describe the experiences of Black women academics who participated in one or more of the following programs geared towards supporting the research and professional development of faculty: (a) the Sisters of the Academy's (SOTA) Research Boot Camp; (b) the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity's Faculty Success Program (FSP); and (c) the New Connections - Increasing Diversity of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program. A purposeful sample of participants revealed how they learned about the programs, the benefits of the initiatives, as well as ways in which the programs influenced their research and productivity as faculty members. The participants' narratives reflect the influences that SOTA, the FSP, and New Connections had on professional development and productivity.


Despite leadership and participation in higher education for more than a century, Black women in the professoriate continue to face barriers that stifle professional development and success (Gregory 2001; Hughes & HowardHamilton, 2003; Nichols & Tanksley, 2004; Patitu & Hinton, 2003; Rosales & Person, 2003). Obstacles include, but are not limited to, work environments that are discriminatory (Zamani, 2003), non-supportive (Patton & Harper, 2003), unwelcoming (Henry & Nixon, 1994), insensitive, and isolating (Watt, 2003). In addition, salary inequities (Bagilhole, 1994) may lead these women to question their intellectual value and render it more difficult for them to successfully manage competing personal and professional obligations (Leonard & Malina, 1994). Due to limited opportunities to receive support, these women are more likely to "give more, receive less, and burn out sooner" (Mobley, 1 992, p. 10). According to Gregory (2001), despite these challenges, Black women in the professoriate demonstrate great resiliency. However, less is known on how professional development programs geared toward minority faculty have supported the professional careers and fortify Black women. In other words, we know little about how Black women in the professoriate survive and thrive in the academy.

Black women in the academy are also faced with racial stressors in the classroom with students (Davis, 2010). Some students perceive Black faculty members as incompetent and inexperienced, prompting them to question and challenge their intellectual abilities (Hughes & Howard-Hamilton, 2003). For instance, in a recent study, Reid (2010) found that students perceived Black women academics as having less overall quality, clarity, and helpfulness than White, Asian, and Latino women faculty. Such perceptions and low ratings may be due to racist and sexist attitudes that students have about Black women faculty (Davis, 2010).

Black women in academe also encounter epistemological racism. Many hold research interests featuring issues affecting non- White people (Thomas & Hollenshead, 2001), which may be outside traditional research conducted by White and other more privileged colleagues (Alfred, 2001). This often Africancentered research conducted by Black women faculty may be characterized by some peers as mediocre or not credible (Bradley, 2005). As a result, some of these women faculty have come to believe that there are such limited opportunities for collaborative research (Singh, Robinson, & Williams-Green, 1995; Thompson & Dey, 1998), that they must change their research agendas, and that they have to work harder to be perceived as legitimate scholars (Thomas & Hollenshead, 2001). Negative characterizations like these can influence their research productivity and work satisfaction. Contrarily, Thompson and Dey (1998) report that Black males spend more time participating in research activities and produce more articles, chapters, and books than Black females. This negative impact upon research productivity contributes to challenges faced during promotion and tenure processes for Black women. …

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