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Mentoring Experiences of African-American Doctoral Students at Historically Black and Historically White Colleges and Universities Open Access

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Abstract of DissertationMentoring Experiences of African-American Doctoral Students at Historically Black and Historically White Colleges and UniversitiesThe percentage of all doctoral degree awards earned by African Americans is still close to six percent of the U.S. population. The purpose of this qualitative research project was to understand the mentoring experiences of African-American doctoral students at HBCUs and HWCUs. Thus, 26 African-American doctoral students were recruited for the semi-structured, in-depth, face-to-face interview study. This interpretive qualitative design allowed the researcher to obtain rich descriptive data on the participants’ experiences and perceptions about mentoring. Eight common themes emerged from the analyzed data: (1) Professional and Academic Growth); (2) Professional and Academic Experiences; (3) Characteristics of Mentor/Protégé Relationship; (4) Perceived Barriers and Challenges; (5) Team Building and Collaboration Garner Success; (6) Race and Gender Characteristics of Advisors; (7) Rapport with Mentor/Advisor; and (8) Alienation and Marginalization. The themes were cross-referenced with the research questions to explore the alignment between the mentoring occurrence and the purpose of the study. The findings revealed that formal and informal mentoring are essential to the professional and academic growth of African-American doctoral students. Participants revealed the importance of having a strong support system from family, friends, peers, advisors/mentors and colleagues. The participants in this study had the ability and strength to overcome many barriers and challenges to succeed academically in their respective departments and programs. Findings discovered that some participants faced marginalization, neglect, racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression within their respective graduate programs and academic environments. However, these African-American doctoral students gained strength from family, peers and faculty advisors/mentors at their respective institutions. Others were not as fortunate, as witnessed by several African-American participants that attended HWCUs. The African-American students in this study created meaning of their mentoring experiences while pursuing their doctoral degrees. However, to gain a better understanding of these experiences, and how to address the numerous obstacles and problems they face, educators (graduate programs, higher education administrators, policy makers) should invest in identifying the issues and bringing knowledge and support to underrepresented student populations.

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