Fellows Research Studies

Research Study: White Faculty Perceptions of Mentoring Students of Color (Social Justice & Advocacy)

Researchers: Asia Randolph, Hannah Franz, and Hannah Mawyer
This research study examines what motivates White faculty to mentor Students of Color at predominantly White institutions (PWIs), as well as what limitations those relationships may have had and how mentors responded to those limitations.

Undergraduate Students of Color who attend PWIs face many challenges, including a lack of support (Dahlvig, 2010), less representation in higher ranks of the institution (Crutcher, 2007), and a decreased sense of belonging (Strayhorn, 2012). Effective faculty mentoring practices are key in mitigating such negative effects of attendance at PWIs and propel undergraduates towards matriculation into graduate school, thus strengthening the educational pipeline (Charity Hudley, Dickter, & Franz, 2017; Saddler, 2010; Smith, 2013). Faculty mentors who share the racial and ethnic identity of students of color serve as highly effective role-models and mentors (Barker, 2011). However, the scarcity of Faculty of Color in higher education makes finding appropriate mentors for students of color difficult due to faculty of color only representing 23% of all full-time faculty (McFarland et al., 2017). Due to the lack of critical mass, Faculty of Color are often overburdened by service requirements not expected of their White counterparts which include the expectation of heavily mentoring students of color and serving as a diverse perspective on committees, panels, and other university activities (Shavers, Butler, & Moore III, 2014). Therefore, White faculty must share responsibility for mentoring undergraduate Students of Color. Yet, research on the perspectives of White faculty in this role is especially scant and warrants further exploration (McCoy et al., 2015).

Using a transcendental phenomenological approach as put forth by Moustaskas (1994), the researchers aim to understand the essence of best practices White faculty use to effectively mentor Students of Color. The purpose is to describe the common meaning participants express as part of serving as White faculty mentors to Students of Color and to generate a composite of their experiences (Creswell & Poth, 2018). We are in the process of conducting semi-structured interviews with approximately 8 White faculty members who mentor Students of Color at four-year liberal arts PWIs. Planned interview questions will center on how participants define mentoring, motivations to mentor Students of Color, limitations in mentoring relationship, and participants’ cultural and mentoring background.

During the data analysis, each researcher will review the cross-checked transcriptions to create themes from significant statements. Moustaskas (1994) outlines the need to highlight significant statements that provide understanding of how the phenomenon was experienced and then use these statements to create meaning clusters that eventually become themes for the data. After the researchers have created their own meaning clusters, we will convene to discuss potential themes for the data and then develop rich descriptions of what the participants experienced and how they did so (Moustaskas, 1994). This description will also include the context in which the participants experienced mentoring students of color.

Research Study: Identified Needs and Help-Seeking Behaviors of LGBTQ College Students

Researchers: Kirstin Byrd and Clay Martin
Since the 1969 Stonewall riot, American colleges and universities have been settings of both LGBTQ theoretical knowledge generation and the battle between powerful homophobic institutions and marginalized LGBTQ individuals, including students and faculty. Historically, LGBTQ students were shunned by institutions of higher education, often expelled upon discovery, referred to psychologists, and denied student groups (D’Emilio, 1990; Renn, 2010). According to Lance (2008), homosexual and heterosexual freedom to engage in consensual relations should be seen as a basic human right to be protected by law.

College campuses in the United States are seeing more students coming out and organizing (Jones, Brewster, & Jones, 2014). According to Sanlo (2004), few campuses gather data on the number and needs of sexual minority students. LGBTQ students are becoming more visible, and higher education institutions will be judged by how they respond to LGBTQ inclusion. Students expect their institution to advocate for and protect their equal rights (Trammell, 2014). Postsecondary institutions have an obligation to address forms of marginalization to create welcoming and affirming campus climates for LGBT people now—not sometime in the future (Vaccaro, 2012).

Research on the LGBTQ college population provides many suggestions for institutional inclusivity. According to Roper (2005), senior student affairs officers should create spaces for the emotional, psychological, structural, and social support for LGBTQ students. They have the power to “normalize” LGBTQ individuals on campus, requiring “formalized” knowledge of student experiences and needs (Ferguson, 2012). Climate studies are essential in understanding what specific aspects of campus life LGBTQ campus community members find most unwelcoming (Vaccaro, 2012).

This study gathers experience narratives to inform institutions of the needs and attitudes of their LGBTQ students with regard to using campus mental health services. The questions here explore needs, perceptions, struggles, support, and the differences in help-seeking behavior between LGBTQ students with disabilities, and those without.

Research posits that LGBTQ college students have special needs due to the damaging effects of homophobia. They are at increased risk for negative mental health, violence, harassment, and discrimination. Some students feel fear or face hostility in dorms, recreational facilities, and other campus settings. These and other damages of homophobic environments call for the development of specialized mental health interventions designed eliminate barriers that marginalize LGBTQ students and to maintain proper well-being (VanKirk et al., 2016.

As far as the state of mental health services at many institutions, there exists a lack of resources, a lack of counseling professionals with adequate experience with the LGBTQ population, a fear that participating in services would compromise safety, and a lack of visibility of available mental health services (Lacy, 2015). Instead of using campus mental health services, many students are more often turned to friends and peers for assistance (Lytle et al., 2017).

This study uses queer theory/methodology to structure interviews that explore how LGBTQ college students utilize campus mental health services. Informed by college student and queer theory, the interview questions focus on their experiences with campus climate, their needs, and attitudes towards using mental health services.

Research Study: Exploring International Students' Perceptions of Campus Climate and Engagement at a Predominately White Institution

Researchers: Laura Pignato and Yi Hao
Utilizing a case study approach with a Critical Race Theory framework, the research team examined international students’ experiences shaping their perceptions of campus climate and campus engagement

When psychological adjustment and student engagement are defined in an individual capacity, rather than an institutional or campus responsibility, contextual factors of racism and isolation remain unacknowledged and inhibit culturally responsive strategies for students at predominantly white institutions (PWI), specifically international students. International students are less likely than any other college student group to use counseling services (Chen, Romero, & Karver, 2016) and frequently report isolation from supportive friends and family (Chhuon & Hudley, 2008). Social support has been found to increase adjustment for international college students by providing a sense of security (Lee & Ciftci, 2014; Rajapaksa & Dundes, 2002) and buffering from psychological stress from campus-related microagressions (Hardwood, Huntt, Mendenhall, & Lewis, 2012; Hassanb, 2006; Johnston & Yeung, 2014; Sue, Bucceri, Lin, Nadal, & Torino, 2009) and academic performance (Glass & Westmont, 2014).

Campus climate contributes to international students feeling a sense of belonging that contributes to social support and adjustment (Johnston & Yeung, 2014). Researchers have found discrimination negatively impacts international students’ perceptions of their campus climate and subsequent feelings of belonging and engagement with the campus community (Hardwood et al., 2012). However, there is a lack of qualitative investigation on international students’ perceptions of campus climate, discrimination, social support, and campus engagement.