Graduate theology school choice: an examination of racial/ethnic minority master of divinity students
This qualitative study explores the graduate school choice of U.S. racial/ethnic minorities enrolled in a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree program. The school choice process is generally defined by contextual layers as framed in Perna's (2006) conceptual model of student college choice: (1) the individual's habitus; (2) school and community context; (3) the higher education context; and (4) the broader social, economic, and policy context. While abundant previous literature exists regarding undergraduate school choice, such literature is relatively small for graduate school choice. Moreover, there is no current literature that specifically examines the graduate theology choice process for racial/ethnic students in MDiv programs. The increasing racial/ethnic presence in MDiv programs requires a focus on graduate school choice for these racial/ethnic students. The aim of the study is to fulfill a crucial scholarship gap in theological education. Through individual in-depth interviews, the goal of the study was to discover how the school choice process unfolded for racial/ethnic students enrolled in an MDiv program by listening to the individual narratives of these students. Drawing on a conceptual model that integrates both economic and sociological perspectives, this study assumed that students' graduate school decisions are determined, at least in part, by their habitus. Thus, particular attention was given to the students' habitus, or the system of values and beliefs that shapes their views and interpretations. Similarly, focus was given to the structural and cultural factors, or organizational habitus, experienced within the undergraduate and other institutional contexts from which racial/ethnic MDiv students emerge. Measures of social and cultural capital that include race, financial resources, and academic preparation and achievement play an important role in explaining the educational decisions of racial/ethnic students. By exploring these influences, this study offers insights into the graduate theology school choice of racial/ethnic MDiv students. The research adds critical knowledge to a growing body of research related to graduate school choice and begin to aid theological schools in understanding the factors that attribute to racial/ethnic minorities enrollment in theology school. Gaining such knowledge enables theological institutions to better prepare for an ever growing diverse student population.