Toward an HBCU-Based Model of Learning Communities

Toward an HBCU-Based Model of Learning Communities

Andrew T. Arroyo (Norfolk State University, USA), Kirsten S. Ericksen (Norfolk State University, USA), Jonathan M. Walker (Norfolk State University, USA) and Patrisha E. Aregano (Norfolk State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0308-8.ch006
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Drawing from the non-Eurocentric and Afrocentric approach of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the authors advance the first HBCU-based learning communities model in the literature to date. The model combines institution-level assets and inputs with student-level assets and inputs to foster a supportive learning community environment that is consistent with HBCU tradition and postmodern organization. Implications for practice and research conclude the chapter, with an emphasis on preparing HBCUs to meet relevant challenges and opportunities.
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Fusing tradition and innovation is a pressing challenge for American higher education, and nowhere is this truer than among this nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Enterprising and entrepreneurial stakeholders, including administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni are needed to renovate HBCUs for this century with the skill and care of talented craftsmen. Indeed, given their non-Eurocentric or Afrocentric (Asante, 1998) approaches to students, HBCUs provide a critical counterpoint to the Eurocentric ideals of predominantly white institutions (PWIs) (Arroyo & Gasman, 2014; Arroyo, Palmer, & Maramba, 2016; Exkano, 2013).

Vital to present-day HBCUs are the perspectives of GenX and Millennial stakeholders because they are the emerging caretakers of these institutions. As products of the 1960s-1990s, these generations tend to favor postmodern organizational paradigms that are lean, nimble, horizontally organized, and include marginalized voices—in contrast to the heavily bureaucratic, technocratic, and oppressive institutions of the modern era (Boje & Dennehy, 1993). GenXers and Millenials also favor working alongside students in endeavors typically reserved for “educated professionals,” including programming, instructional design and delivery, and the creation of new knowledge through research (Arroyo, Kidd, Burns, Cruz, Lawrence-Lamb, 2015a). They treat students as active partners in the (re)creation and perpetuation of transformative experiences (Arroyo, 2010; Arroyo et al., 2015).

Guided by these ideas, the current chapter was written by two GenX and two Millennial professors, researchers, and student affairs professionals at a public, four-year HBCU. In an effort to ensure the ongoing relevance and sustainability of HBCUs broadly, the authors advance an institutional initiative for addressing myriad issues of critical importance to these institutions. Specifically, this chapter presents an original HBCU-based model of learning communities that combines institutional and student assets and inputs to create a special non-Eurocentric or Afrocentric (Asante, 1998; Exkano, 2013) experience that is consistent with principles of postmodern organizations (Boje & Dennehy, 1993).

The model adapts the high-impact, widely practiced strategy of learning communities (Brower & Inkelas, 2010; Kuh, 2008; Tinto, 2012) to the special HBCU approach for Black student success (Arroyo & Gasman, 2014; Exkano, 2013), which remains vital for the continued upward mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Black Americans (Gasman, Lundy-Wagner, Ransom, & Bowman, 2010). To this, the model also weds students’ community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005) in order to create a culturally responsive, cooperative space. The result is a flourishing institution that positively impacts student success, while also fostering a satisfying work environment for administrators, faculty, and staff that might contribute to higher productivity.

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