A Long Way to Go: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty and Graduate Students

By Darrell Cleveland | Go to book overview

2

AFRICAN AMERICAN GRADUATE
STUDENTS' EXPERIENCES: A CRITICAL
ANALYSIS OF RECENT RESEARCH

H. Richard Milner

Recently, I met and spoke with an African American doctoral student * who had not been enrolled in her program longer than a few weeks. She said she was feeling “down.” She had considered leaving the program because she did not feel prepared for nor accepted in her program. She felt alienated, as if she did not “belong.” Although she held back the tears that made her voice crack, her emotional strain was obvious. Unfortunately, this conversation was not the first time that an African American student had expressed his or her hurt to me as an African American faculty member. No doubt, graduate school experiences for African American students deserve attention at a time when disproportionately low numbers of African Americans are earning doctorate and professional degrees.

Statistics show that although Blacks represent almost 13% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001), they receive only about 8% of the master's degrees awarded and about 6% of the Ph.D.s awarded each year (National Center, 2002). Only 2,066 (4.5%) of the 45,925 doctoral degrees awarded during the 1997— 1998 academic year went to African Americans with 30,097 (7%) of the 429,296 master's degrees awarded that year to African Americans (U.S. Department of Education, 2001).

In short, the graduate school experiences among African American students are often alienating, unsupportive, and tense; thus, many African Americans do not persist. In this chapter, I outline some of the issues that African American students

____________________
*
I used “African American” and “Black” interchangeably throughout this chapter.

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