Degree perseverance among African Americans transitioning from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to predominantly White institutions (PWIs)
This study investigates degree perseverance among African Americans who transitioned from an undergraduate music program at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). A framework based on Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory and Yosso’s community cultural wealth theory was employed to examine how academic, cultural, and social aspects of participants’ undergraduate and graduate school experiences influenced their perseverance. Because those aspects are intricately intertwined with race, I also employed critical race theory and double consciousness theory, and used Angela Duckworth’s Grit Scale to measure degree perseverance.
Eight African American male instrumental music educators participated in this study. Research questions included: What are the experiences of African Americans who have transitioned from undergraduate music programs at HBCUs to graduate music programs at PWIs?; How do these individuals compare academic, social, and cultural aspects of their experiences within two institutional environments?; What are their self-perceptions of their own degree perseverance?; and, What social, cultural, and academic aspects of their experiences influenced their perseverance?
After developing a portrait of each participant’s pre-college and college experiences, analysis reveled that participants were very persistent; however, academic, cultural, social, and racial experiences influenced their perseverance. Participants employed dominant cultural capital and community cultural wealth as well as their “Grittiness” to successfully transition from an HBCU to a PWI.
Recommendations for HBCUs, PWIs, and the profession are offered toward improving the experiences of African American music students in higher education. HBCUs must hold their faculty and students accountable for developing a broader musical experience beyond marching band, and address colorism on their campuses. PWIs should recognize and accept the capital that African Americans bring, acknowledge that African Americans need access to social support networks, and assess how their environments, actions, and decisions may devalue or discount African Americans. While more research is needed regarding the experiences of African Americans in music programs, African American students must also take active roles in shaping their own educational experiences by seeking assistance that will improve their experiences.