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Cross-Racial Agency: Exploring a New Form of Collaborative Practice to Support Men of Color in Higher Education

by Joe Lott II, Dalya Perez & Theresa Ling Yeh - 2021

Background/Context: Men of color have been the focus of a growing number of research studies, as educators and policy makers attempt to address educational equity gaps along the P–20 pipeline. Compared with other educational settings, less attention has focused on how to increase persistence and graduation rates of men of color pursuing baccalaureate degrees. Yet national statistics over the past two decades show that men of color in colleges and universities graduate at lower rates than all other populations, including their same-race women peers. Interventions and supports for men of color in higher education often rely on siloed programmatic efforts that focus on the student as the primary unit of change. Little is known about how to create organizational change that addresses institutional barriers to equity.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This research examines a collaborative, equity-based inquiry approach to respond to equity gaps for men of color in college. The purpose of this article draws on the theory of relational agency to understand how practitioners of color worked together to design an institution-wide intervention that would benefit students and simultaneously drive institutional change. Guiding questions are: (1) How did relational agency manifest itself in the collaborative process of creating a cohort-based framework for undergraduate men of color at a predominantly White institution? (2) What is the impact of the collaborative process on the practitioners who were involved?

Research Design: This study uses a social design experiment (SDE) approach to examine what happens when staff of color on a predominantly White campus come together to address educational inequities for men of color. Pursuing this investigation through an SDE framework enabled us to apply a holistic perspective to real-world activities and our observations of them as researchers who co-constructed an intervention with participants.

Conclusions/Recommendations: We propose the concept of cross-racial agency as a unique form of relational agency in which practitioners of color use design-based approaches to work across professional and racial boundaries toward a shared goal. We suggest that developing communities of practice through this approach could lead to more enriched and comprehensive responses and to systemic organizational change.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 2, 2021, p. 1-40
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23588, Date Accessed: 4/17/2021 5:32:42 AM

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About the Author
  • Joe Lott II
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    JOE LOTT II, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Washington. He is also the founding faculty director of University of Washington’s Brotherhood Initiative. His current research agenda investigates how educational systems can create the conditions to empower boys and men of color to thrive. Recent publications include an article titled “Undergraduate men of color experiences with the 2016 presidential election” published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, and a co-authored article titled “Families in the driver’s seat: Catalyzing familial transformative agency for equitable collaboration,” published in Teachers College Record.
  • Dalya Perez
    E-mail Author
    DALYA PEREZ currently works as a Program Manager for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Microsoft's Mixed Reality organization. Her research interests focus on developing critical historical consciousness for Filipinx Americans and addressing postsecondary graduation gaps in postsecondary contexts. She received her Ph.D. in 2020.
  • Theresa Ling Yeh
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    THERESA LING YEH is currently the Director of Research and Programs for the Brotherhood Initiative at the University of Washington. Her work focuses on postsecondary access and completion for first-generation, low-income students and men of color, community college transfer policy and practice, and community engagement. Her recent publications include a co-edited volume for New Directions for Community Colleges, titled Transfer Partnerships for More Equitable Outcomes, and a co-authored chapter, “A Continuum of Transfer Partnerships: Toward Intentional Collaborations to Improve Transfer Outcomes.”
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