Black Student-Faculty Mentorship Programs: A Means to Increase Workforce Diversity in the Professoriate

Black Student-Faculty Mentorship Programs: A Means to Increase Workforce Diversity in the Professoriate

Shavonne Shorter (Bloomsburg University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0209-8.ch003
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This chapter discusses recommendations for how colleges and universities can institute formal mentorship programs between Black students who have the aptitude and/or interest to become professors and Black faculty. Recommendations about concerns that mentors should address have been crafted based on the expressed needs and desires of Black students from the work of Shorter (2014). The chapter will detail the types of activities the program should include such as learning more about expected job responsibilities. The chapter also discusses intended outcomes associated with the program, the ultimate being an increase in the numbers of Black students that become professors. The chapter concludes with recommendations to expand the program's scope to include all underrepresented minority students.
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The number of Black students’ declines dramatically the further one goes within the system of higher education. Only 43% percent of Black students graduate from college (“Black Students College Graduation Rates”, 2007). Statistics on graduate school enrollment show that Blacks make up a small percentage of the entire U.S. graduate school population at 12.4% (“Graduate Enrollment and Degrees”, 2012). Even more alarmingly, Black professors comprise only 6% of the entire faculty workforce across the U.S. (“Fast Facts Race/Ethnicity”, 2014). This disconcerting figure speaks to a larger issue within higher education, the surprisingly modest amount of racial and ethnic workforce diversity in the professoriate.

Maintaining and ultimately increasing the numbers of Black faculty in the workforce is key as it allows for the inclusion and integration of the unique perspectives and experiences of people of color in classrooms and scholarly research (Schultz, Hernandez, Woodcock, Estrada, Chance, Aguilar, & Serpe, 2011). Research has shown that mentoring has proved to be beneficial for Black collegiate students as it positively impacts academic outcomes, professional development, and career knowledge (Bearman, Blake-Beard, Hunt, & Crosby, 2007; Campbell, 2007; Johnson, 2007; Johnson, Xu, & Allen, 2007). One way to retain more Black students in the pathway to the professoriate (college to graduate school, graduate school to the professoriate) and bolster the amount of Blacks who pursue the professoriate as a career may be through the development and implementation of formal mentoring programs between Black students at all collegiate levels (undergraduate and graduate) and faculty to achieve the aforementioned aims. This chapter provides recommendations for higher education administrators, faculty, and staff who may be interested in beginning a formal mentoring program at their institution. These recommendations have been grounded both in existing literature as well as in the expressed needs and desires of Black students who are making their way through the pathway.

It is in the literature where this chapter begins with a review of scholarship that clearly conveys how vital mentoring is to a Black student’s success as they try to successfully make their way through the pathway to the professoriate. Then, the literature on effective mentoring programs is reviewed. Next, the results of a study by Shorter (2014), that provides a student perspective on what students need and want in a mentoring program are discussed. This is followed by practical implications the study has for formal mentoring programs. The chapter concludes with a note of consideration to expand mentoring programs to other underrepresented student populations. First, a look at the literature on mentorship.

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