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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

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 P20 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.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 2, 2021, p. 1-40 ID Number: 23588, Date Accessed: 5/19/2022 7:48:33 AM

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