How high-achieving African American undergraduate men negotiate cultural challenges at a predominantly White institution
In this study I examine the manner in which high-achieving African American undergraduate men negotiate cultural challenges in a predominantly White institution (PWI). Cultural theory underpins the conceptual framework of this case study. Basing the study in cultural theory provided a lens through which to view the lived experiences of the twenty study participants. The site of the study was Millennial University (MU) located in the southeastern United States with a population of over 25,000 students. African American students comprise approximately 14% of all students and African American males make up approximately 6% of this population. To date, few studies have focused on African American male high-achievers in postsecondary institutions (Bonner, 2001; Harper, 2005). Consequently, there is a dearth of information in the literature pertinent to higher education practitioners. Social, economic, political and legal barriers often relegate this subpopulation to stereotypical caricatures. The research design used in this study supported the collection of "rich thick" descriptive data (Merriam, 1998). These data are relevant to cognitive and non-cognitive strategies used by high-achieving African American undergraduate males to successfully maneuver through an often hostile and unwelcoming campus environment. Data collection methodology included individual interviews, focus group sessions and e-journaling. Fieldwork was conducted over a period of four weeks. Constant comparative analysis was used for data coded into five thematic categories. As society progresses toward globalization, and learning becomes more technologically influenced, cultural frames of reference will be increasingly more critical to teaching and learning across institutional types and cultures. The importance of understanding institutional culture and its impact on diverse members are to support shared goals as opposed to identifying conflicts between individual groups (Tierney, 1998). By assuming responsibility (an unanticipated finding in this study) for effecting positive multicultural and multiracial interactions across sectors of the MU campus, the study group modeled the concept of supporting shared goals as opposed to identifying conflicts. From the findings, several recommendations for practice emerged. Key recommendations include: (1) structured peer interaction with same race and majority race high-achievers, (2) employ more African American male role models, and (3) encourage multicultural learning and dialogue.