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Title:More than meets the eye: exploring a black cultural center as a counterspace for African American college students
Author(s):Case, Andrew D.
Director of Research:Hunter, Carla D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Hunter, Carla D.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Aber, Mark S.; Allen, Nicole E.; Kral, Michael; Neville, Helen A.
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Black Cultural Centers
Adaptive Responding
African American College Students
Abstract:Some African American college students attending predominantly White institutions (PWIs) encounter marginalizing dynamics that place them at risk for unfavorable psychological and academic outcomes. Scholars maintain that members of this population mitigate this risk, in large part, through participation in counterspaces like Black cultural centers (BCC). Counterspaces are settings theorized to bolster the self-concepts of African American college, thus enabling them to ameliorate or circumvent the deleterious effects of racial denigration. Yet, the self-enhancing processes that occur within counterspaces have not been adequately investigated. The purpose of this study was to illuminate self-enhancing processes that occur within counterspaces through an ethnographic case study of a BCC. Over the course of nine months, a series of interviews and focus groups were conducted with a sample of 26 individuals comprised of BCC staff, students who frequented the center, and students who had little to no contact with the center. Additionally, systematic observations were made of the setting and an analysis of key center-related documents was conducted. The analytic approach that was employed combined traditional ethnographic assumptions and a modified grounded theory approach. Findings revealed that the BCC was experienced by many student participants as a “home away from home” that counteracted the isolation and non-belonging experienced by some African American college students. Additionally, the experience of home was supported by direct relational transactions (DRTs). Direct relational transactions are a self-enhancing process comprised of interchanges between individuals that provide social support and that transmits behavioral and cognitive strategies to respond to marginalization. The DRTs that occurred within the BCC helped students to: (a) navigate the vicissitudes of college life, (b) connect with resources critical to their academic progression, and (c) ameliorate the distress associated with their marginalization. Findings also indicated that an important part of what gave rise to DRTs within the BCC was the distinct roles staff and students took related to each other and the caring relationships that were present between and within these groups. Ultimately, these findings point to the importance of the formation of a supportive “community of othered” as part of counterspace settings for African American college students. They also suggest that what BCCs and other ethnic student organizations provide to counter the experience of isolation and non-belonging is an opportunity to be a part of a supportive community and to engage in self-enhancing relational transactions.
Issue Date:2014-09-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Andrew D. Case
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-16
Date Deposited:2014-08

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