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Title:You make the letters, the letters don't make you: A case study analysis of African American males in black Greek letter fraternities at a predominantly white institution
Author(s):Common, Brandon
Director of Research:Baber, Lorenzo D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Baber, Lorenzo D.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hood, Denice W.; Trent, William T.; Span, Christopher M.
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Social sciences
African American Males
Black Greek-lettered organizations
Cultural Capital
Cultural Wealth
Abstract:Since their formation, the accomplishments of Black Greek Lettered Organizations (BGLOs) are undisputed. While BGLOs boast some of the greatest African American artists, writers, activist, athletes, and legal minds of the 20th century, the contributions of Black Greek Letter alum often succumb to less than ideal media portrayals and high profile hazing incidents. The increased legal turmoil experienced by BGLOs at the national level paired with increased demographic changes in higher education have the potential to threaten the existence of these groups. Not sufficiently addressed in the discourse surrounding BGLOs are the experiences of African American males within these organizations. African America males struggle at all points along the higher education pipeline (Bowen, Chingos, & McPherson, 2009; Harper & Harris, 2013). One tool for matriculation for these students is involvement; however, involvement by way of Black Greek life remains largely unscathed. This study contributes to the larger body of literature by utilizing community cultural wealth to investigate the experiences of African American males in BGLOs. Researchers have utilized Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory in investigating the educational experiences of African Americans. Although providing a useful starting point for this conversation, scholars continue to evaluate the usefulness of Bourdieu’s theory in fully understanding the plight of students of color (Pierce & Lin, 2007; Winkle-Wagner, 2009; Yosso, 2005). From these conversations have emerged “otherized theories” that better articulate and celebrate the capital the students of color acquire through their culture. Yosso’s (2005) community cultural wealth framework which suggests that students of color own forms of capital that allow them to navigate the education system served as the framework for this investigation. This project used qualitative case study methods to investigate the lives of African American male members in BGLOs at a large research intensive Predominantly White Institution (PWI) during the spring of 2013. Purposeful sampling yielded 13 participants who ranged in academic level from sophomore to fifth year senior, and represented a diversity of experience as members of the Black and Black Greek Lettered community. Two face-to-face semi-structured interviews took place simultaneously with observations of the campus and Black Greek community. Three themes emerged from participants’ experiences before fraternal membership: 1) using multiple resources to navigate the collegiate context, 2) overcoming real barriers, and 3) decisions to join a Black Greek letter fraternity. Additionally, three themes emerged from participants’ time as fraternity men including: 1) multiple dimensions of brotherhood, 2) impact of involvement, and 3) value added of the Black fraternal experience.
Issue Date:2014-05-30
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Brandon Common
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-05-30
Date Deposited:2014-05

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