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When Gender Issues Are Not Just About Women: Reconsidering Male Students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities


by Valerie Lundy-Wagner & Marybeth Gasman — 2011

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The primary purpose of this study is to examine the research and literature on African American male enrollment, experiences, and degree completion trends at four-year HBCUs. The secondary goal is to recenter the gendered dialogue that occurs within HBCU undergraduate student research, such that barriers specific to African American men are identified and examined, with the expectation of better promoting their postsecondary success.

Research Design: Analytic essay, cross-sectional data analysis.

Data Collection and Analysis: First, we conducted a review of historical and contemporary literature to identify the role and contribution of four-year HBCUs on African American males over time. In addition, we employed a secondary data analysis of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to identify six-year graduation rates for one cohort of African American male and female student at HBCUs.

Findings/Results: Critical analysis of historical data from the mid-19th to early 21st century indicates that African American males have indeed been neglected in research on undergraduate enrollment, experiences, and degree completion at four-year HBCUs. African American males face a number of issues that are not absolved on matriculation to HBCUs merely because their environments are predominantly Black. Our analysis suggests that in general, the nurturing and supportive environment on HBCU campuses, when harnessed by African American male (and female) students, can promote postsecondary matriculation and success.

Conclusions/Recommendations: HBCUs have undoubtedly afforded African American males a route by which to gain access to postsecondary education. However, the lack of attention toward their struggles has served to silence their gendered experience and perpetuate a lack of accountability for African American male underachievement within the higher education establishment. Future gendered analyses of HBCU undergraduates ought to address both the male and female experience on these campuses using a variety of appropriate methodological approaches.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 5, 2011, p. 934-968
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15936, Date Accessed: 10/20/2017 5:52:54 PM

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About the Author
  • Valerie Lundy-Wagner
    University of Pennsylvania
    VALERIE LUNDY-WAGNER is a PhD candidate in higher education at the University of Pennsylvania in the Graduate School of Education. Her research interests focus on bachelor’s degree completion, undergraduate success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and HBCUs. Ms. Lundy-Wagner is completing her dissertation to identify the how intersectionality (ethnicity/race × gender) affects likelihood of bachelor’s degree completion. She recently coauthored Perna, L. W., Lundy-Wagner, V. C., Drezner, N. D., Gasman, M., Yoon, S., Bose, E., & Gary, S. (2009). The contribution of HBCUs to the preparation of African American women for STEM careers: A case study. Research in Higher Education, 50(1), 1–23.
  • Marybeth Gasman
    University of Pennsylvania
    E-mail Author
    MARYBETH GASMAN is an associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania in the Graduate School of Education. Her areas of expertise include HBCUs, diversity and higher education, African American educational leadership, and fund-raising and philanthropy.
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