A professor at the University of Utah recently co-authored a study exploring challenges faced by black male doctoral students. The six-year study followed 21 students earning doctorate degrees in engineering. It showed these students felt they were at the bottom of the hierarchy when it came to receiving resources from faculty members.
William Smith is the chair for the Department of Education, Culture and Society at the University of Utah. He worked on this research project with a professor from Iowa State University and one from the University of Alabama.
“It was a very interesting experiment to really hear the voices of what these students were dealing with on a day-to-day basis in these programs,” Smith said.
He said although the students in the study had high GPAs and had been admitted into their programs, the faculty did not seem to view them as capable of success. The study showed that the mentorship received by their white colleagues was something the black students only heard about.
To combat these issues, Smith said universities need to diversify their faculty and prevent faculty from discriminating against minority groups.
“Any department will be a much better department the more diverse it is,” Smith said. “And I’m talking about race, gender, sexuality, language, every type of important measure of diversity improves overall student experience in those programs. So we all benefit from that.”
Smith hopes this study and others like it will encourage universities to begin making the changes needed to foster an inclusive environment.
“Some of these issues have been issues for 40 and 50 years,” Smith said, “and we can’t settle on an excuse that says we didn’t know or we didn’t know what to do. Yes we do. The evidence is there.”