Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Journey toward Becoming a Counselor Education Doctoral Student: Perspectives of Women of Color

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Journey toward Becoming a Counselor Education Doctoral Student: Perspectives of Women of Color

Article excerpt

Diversity in higher education is encouraged among various disciplines (Clark, 2011; Ghosh, 2012). Thousands of doctoral degrees are awarded from year to year, however individuals of color make up only a small percentage of those who receive this honor (U.S Department of Education, NCES, 2008). When an individual of color decides to enter into higher education, many factors such as financial considerations, support, and benefits are taken in account (Pema, 2004). Women of color, in particular, consider these same factors, but also think about elements such as childbearing and mentorship. The decision to have children has repeatedly shown a negative relationship with career progression for women, causing many women to postpone aspirations of motherhood until they have solidified their careers (Hoffnung, 2004). In addition, women who already have children often cite feeling tom between family and career, and feeling as if they need to sacrifice family in order to advance their careers (Turner, 2002). Mentorship considerations are also important to women of color entering into higher education because they fear isolation from their peers during the experience (Miller & Stone, 2011). Furthermore, creating appropriate mentoring relationships for women of color can be challenging since limited racial diversity exists on college campuses, and racial similarities have been noted as an important part of the mentoring process (Patton, 2009). Although it is clear that women of color have different journeys and experiences in higher education, there is limited research on the topic. Because women of color are underrepresented in higher education and consider so many factors before entering into higher education, it is important to explore the journeys of these women.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of women of color entering into a counselor education PhD program and their early experiences in the program. It is hoped that the dissemination of final results will help deepen the understanding of the journeys of women of color who decide to enter into higher education. Women of color have a unique journey to higher education and consider various factors before they choose to enroll in graduate school (Herzig, 2004; Pema, 2004). Oftentimes, this decision making process is different from other groups of individuals, (e.g., lack of other minorities in the field, perceived difficulties of being integrated into the program, desire to begin a family, etc.) therefore, it is important to understand their unique experiences (Herzig, 2004; Pema, 2004; Turner, 2002). Educators and their students will benefit by hearing the journeys of these women, in their own words, because it can help them understand why this experience is different for women of color. In addition, it will allow them to understand the needs of women of color who enter into higher education doctoral programs and realize the challenges and strengths of these women.

The present study was conducted during the fall of 2012 when a new group of individuals began their studies as first year doctoral students. As three researchers from a large southeastern university, the authors were interested in learning about the journeys of woman of color in higher education in that area. The study aimed to gather and analyze data in order to more fully understand the journeys of women of color in a counselor education PhD program. The voices of women of color in higher education have not been heard and it was a goal to break the silence. In understanding that women of color are underrepresented in higher education, the authors also wanted to learn the challenges and strengths of these women.

The study was guided by three research questions:

1. What leads women of color to enter into higher education?

2. What is their journey into higher education?

3. What challenges and strengths have they experienced as women of color in higher education? …

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