African American college students at predominantly White and historically Black colleges and universities
McDonald, Nicole L.
This study provides information about the socialization experiences of African American college students within historically Black and predominantly White institutional contexts. Drawing on Weidman’s (1989) conceptual framework for college student socialization, this study illuminates college student perceptions of individual and institutional factors that influence the socialization experiences of African American college students including: student background characteristics, parental socialization, non-college reference groups, in-college experiences, and socialization outcomes as central factors in the process of undergraduate student socialization. The data for this study was collected through in-person, semi-structured interviews conducted with African American college juniors at a historically Black, private, selective, research university, and at a predominantly White, private, selective, research university as well as participant observation, and the collection of artifacts. Across both institutions, students’ early commitment to college participation, expectations and preparation for college, parents, and formal college experiences including interaction with faculty in-class influenced students’ socialization. Participants also had limited interaction with non-college references at both institutions. Parents were perceived as an influence in students’ pre-college college as well as in college experiences. Institutional factors that emerged as push and pull factors across both institutions included faculty-student interaction in class, and more specifically faculty expectations and class structure, concern for students’ learning, rapport with students, and engagement of students in-class. Several themes emerged that differed across institutional contexts relative to students’ socialization experiences. At the predominantly White institution, institutional choice, and peer norms including perceptions of the prevailing image of students, and patterns of peer interaction emerged as themes in the data. At the historically Black institution, institutional choice, institutional values, perception of a lack of administrative support as well as peer norms including perceptions of the prevailing image of students. In sum, this study provides insights that can be utilized to enhance the socialization experiences of African American college students across both historically Black and predominantly White postsecondary institutional contexts.