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Title:A case study exploring college access for low-income, first-generation urban African American students and the career success of Mr. Silas Purnell, ‘the Michael Jordan of TRiO’
Author(s):Benson, Jr., Perry Lee
Director of Research:Ward Hood, Denice
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Ward Hood, Denice
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Span, Christopher M; Pak, Yoon; Trent, William T
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Silas Purnell, Black students, African American students, matriculation, Chicago, college access, first-generation, low-income, urban, college admissions culture
Abstract:This dissertation uses a case study to explore issues of college access for low-income, first-generation urban African American students. This project also examines the work of Mr. Silas Purnell, the man I have deemed as ‘The Michael Jordan of TRiO’. He was a pioneer, leader, and in essence—a game changer in the field of Student Affairs and among the college going culture for students of color for nearly a half-century. His work in Chicago with students of color along with colleges and universities across the country from 1966 to 2001 is relevant and continues to resonate. Scholars suggest Purnell single-handedly changed the culture of college admissions regarding working with masses of urban students of color. Due to social stratification and inequalities critical resources and pertinent information for matriculation into higher education continues to be scarce and elusive to some. For more than a half-century, educational disparities have existed and persisted. No other population within the United States public education system has been as affected and positioned for failure than African Americans (Blacks) and male students, in particular. Black students continue to face plagues of environmental, social, familial and other related factors which impact can academic achievement. Purnell worked with tens of thousands of Black students and most of them came from low-income families and would become first-generation college attendees. Purnell’s unprecedented work and efforts yielded resources, opportunities, and access to college for many who otherwise would not have been afforded entrance into the doors of higher learning. Literally, an unconfirmed number of students who Purnell worked with went on to achieve success. Since issues of college access, college placement, and college completion remain a problem, I sought to delve into the work and legacy of Purnell to seek to discover tools and tips he employed during his tenure. As educators, scholars, and practitioners seek viable approaches to further support increasing access and college attainment to similar populations of students, I chose to focus my research and thoroughly study the work and success of Purnell, who reportedly facilitated approximately 100,000 students’ placement into college. The primary research questions that guided this study included: 1) What were the strategies and practices that Purnell adopted in working with students and families?; 2) How was he effective in placing students into schools and providing access to higher education?; and 3) How can current professionals and advocates for underrepresented, low-income, urban students apply the strategies and practices Purnell used into their work in increasing access to higher education? This qualitative study used individual interviews as the primary data collection method. 13 individuals were interviewed and they shared information which contributed to a data set organized into six primary themes. This dissertation study contributes to our understanding of maximal success in work related to college preparation services with underrepresented, underserved, and marginalized populations. This research reveals that in addition to intellectual capacity and expertise, it is also optimal to embody and implement soft skills and leadership qualities including: perseverance, resourcefulness and resilience in networking, cultural competency, caring and commitment; and the capacity to overcome many obstacles.
Issue Date:2018-04-20
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/101034
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Perry Lee Benson, Jr.
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05


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