Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Providing Culturally Relevant Services for International Black African Collegians in the United States: A Guide for Student Affairs Professionals

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Providing Culturally Relevant Services for International Black African Collegians in the United States: A Guide for Student Affairs Professionals

Article excerpt

"Shot in the streets of the United States, raped by police in France, and beat up by citizens in India, man it 's tough being Black in this world. "

- Angel Mujahid (Mujahid, 2017)

At the time of me writing this article, reports of Black Africans-namely Nigerians-being attacked and killed in India and South Africa are hitting the news circuit (Unah, 2017; Wu, 2017). These unnatural deaths are a reminder that despite ethnicity or national origin Black bodies in the U.S. and around the world are being destroyed. As Marc Lamont Hill (2016) pointed out in his book Nobody, "there is an increasingly intense war on the vulnerable" (p. 9), and international Black African collegians (hereafter IBAC) are not exempt from this treatment.

Situated within the current politically charged national climate that is challenging foreign policy and the brutality to Black life, this article explores alternative visions by addressing Black African embodiment in U.S. higher education. With this in mind, the purpose of this article is twofold: (1) to identify the needs and issues that are unique to IBAC in the U.S., and (2) to discuss how student affairs professionals can implement strategies to better serve these students. More specifically, this article is a response to the reality that the experiences of IBAC in U.S. higher education have not been adequately investigated, particularly as it relates to understanding the diversity within this group. Much of the discourse around international students primarily focuses on the experiences of Asian students, while overlooking the experiences of students from other regions (Fries-Britt, George Mwangi, & Peralta, 2014; Lee & Rice, 2007). This article attends to the paucity of African experiences in international education literature.

Using my own experience working with IBAC as a student affairs professional and research with Nigerian collegians in U.S. higher education as a point of reference, I provide context in understanding IBAC experiences that adds a practitioner and scholarly lens. What follows is a brief explanation of my two research studies on Nigerian collegians, and seven suggestions for student affairs professionals. While this is not an empirical study, my research provides a deeper understanding of the IBAC lived experiences.


It is important to note that Africa is a continent that is made up of over 50 countries with diverse cultures and populations. Nigeria, a country located in West Africa, has the largest Black population in the world. It also has been recorded as having the biggest economy in Africa, and a large sender of students to the U.S. (Institute of International Education [IIE], 2014; Steeves, 2016). With this in mind, Nigerians are a noteworthy demographic to focus on, as it is a growing and understudied Black African population in higher education.

Nigerians in the U.S. are experiencing an African American experience that is unique and distinctive to their Black American peers. They are also graduating college and obtaining degrees at high rates (Capps, McCabe, & Fix, 2012; Kent, 2007). Given their unique and distinctive life experiences as an international and Black student on campus, there is a need for student affairs professionals to learn more about how they can support IBAC. Findings from my two research projects reveal IBAC are confronted with difficult life decisions, and student affairs professionals are in a unique position to help (Patton, Renn, Guido, & Quaye 2016; Quaye & Harper, 2014; Reynolds, 2009).

The first project examined how Nigerian college students make meaning of their racial and ethnic identity at a predominantly White institution. Detailed interviews were conducted with 20 Nigerian college students at a Midwestern public research university in spring 2013. Questionnaires were administered to collect socio demographic information. Seven participants reported that they were international students, and five participants were considered transnational as they were born and / or raised in Nigeria. …

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