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Observations, values, and beliefs about ethnic/racial diversity by members of community college faculty search committees

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As open-door institutions, community colleges provide access to students from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and cultures. Yet while enrollment of students of color in community colleges continues to increase, representation by faculty of color has not. This

As open-door institutions, community colleges provide access to students from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and cultures. Yet while enrollment of students of color in community colleges continues to increase, representation by faculty of color has not. This qualitative study investigated community college faculty search committee members' implicit and subjective observations, values, and beliefs about ethnic/racial diversity in order to gain an understanding of how they may influence the faculty hiring process. The researcher interviewed 12 subjects-- administrators and faculty members at three community colleges in a large district in the southwest region of the United States--who served on faculty search committees from 2006-2009. Findings revealed three major themes: (a) the communication of diversity; (b) search committee dynamics with the sub-themes of role of the chair, role of administration, and the issue of time; and (c) subjects' observations, values, and beliefs, with the sub-themes of conflict, the idea of a "good fit," colorblindness, self-perception of having attained enlightenment about diversity, and the blaming of applicant pools. Discussion of the results was facilitated by utilizing three critical race theory constructs: (a) the pervasiveness of racism as ordinary and normal, (b) the use of Whiteness as the normative standard, and (c) the rejection of liberalism. The findings support the literature's assertion that colleges and faculty search committees can publically claim to value diversity but engage in practices that are incongruent with such claims. Despite the best institutional rhetoric on faculty diversity, failure to address search committee members' values, beliefs, and behaviors will result in little change. Communication and effective leadership can help increase faculty of color representation at community colleges. Communication about the relevance and practical application of diversity should be strong and consistent. Additionally, search committee definitions of "qualified" need to be challenged specific to members' colorblindness and beliefs in the effectiveness of meritocracy. Moreover, leadership is needed to advocate and hold people responsible and accountable for inclusive practices. Critical race theory served as a useful theoretical framework to identify the obstacles and analyze policies and power structures that facilitate underrepresentation of faculty of color in community colleges.

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2010

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A multiplicity of successes: capabilities, refuge, and pathways in contemporary community colleges

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Community colleges, like all higher education institutions in the United States, have not been immune to the increased national focus on educational accountability and institutional effectiveness over the past three decades. Federal and non-governmental initiatives aimed at tracking and reporting

Community colleges, like all higher education institutions in the United States, have not been immune to the increased national focus on educational accountability and institutional effectiveness over the past three decades. Federal and non-governmental initiatives aimed at tracking and reporting on institutional outcomes have focused on utilitarian academic and economic measures of student success that homogenize the goals, aspirations, and challenges of the individuals who attend these unique open-access institutions. This dissertation, which is comprised of three submission-ready scholarly peer-reviewed articles, examined community college students’ conceptualizations and valuations of “student success.” The research project was designed as a multiple methods single-site case study, and the data sources consisted of a large-scale student e-survey, follow-up semi-structured interviews with a heterogeneous group of students, semi-structured interviews with faculty and administrators, and a review of institutional documents. The interviews also incorporated two experimental visual elicitation techniques and a participatory ranking exercise. Article One introduces and operationalizes the author’s primary conceptual perspective, the capabilities approach, to develop a more comprehensive framework for understanding and evaluating community college student outcomes. This article documents the methodological process used to generate a theoretical and an empirical list of community college capabilities, which serve as the basis of future capabilities-based research on community college student success. Article Two draws on the student interview and student visual elicitation data to explore the capability category of “refuge” – a new, unexpected, and student-valued purpose of the community college as a safe escape from the complexities and demands of personal, home, and work life. In light of recent efforts to promote more structured and prescriptive college experiences to improve graduation rates, Article Three explores students’ perceptions of their pathways through the community college using the participant-generated and researcher-generated visual elicitation data. Findings indicate that students value the structure and the flexibility community colleges offer, as well as their own ability to be agents and architects of their educational experience. Taken together, these articles suggest that student success is less linear and more rhizomatic in structure than it is currently portrayed in the literature.

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2015