African American Undergraduate Women And Their Perceptions Of The Influence Of Engagement On Their Academic Achievement
King-Strong, Bernice Norvella
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This phenomenological study examined how nine African American undergraduate women perceive the influences of their academic and social engagement practices on their academic achievement. This study took place at the University of California at Joplin, an elite, public predominantly White, institution (PWI) in Northern California. . The participants, who included four juniors, four sophomores, and one senior, came from diverse familial, academic and social backgrounds.Black Feminist Thought (Collins, 2000; 2009) and Engagement Theory (Kuh et al., 2005) were the theoretical constructs used in this study. The data collection process included: 1) two semi structured interviews with each participant about their personal and educational backgrounds as well as academic and social engagement practices both inside and outside of the classroom, 2) analytical memos, 3) field notes, and 4) participant selected photographs. After the interviews were transcribed, the data collected were analyzed for emerging themes (Patton, 1990). Findings from this study revealed that: 1) African American undergraduate women perceive their academic achievement to be their ultimate goal of college attendance, 2) perceived disadvantages of academic and social engagement did not derail academic achievement, 3) hostile racial climates at PWIs cause feelings of isolation for AAUW, 4) PWIs should create campus climates that will foster academic achievement for AAUW, and 5) AAUW require support from faculty in order to be prepared for post-graduation engagement. Implications for research, practice and policy are discussed in relation to African American undergraduate women's realities at elite public predominantly White universities, and how these women's experiences can inform the discourse regarding ways to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of historically underrepresented students.