OAE hosts UPenn professor to lecture on African-American males in higher education

In 2002, African-American men comprised only 4.3 percent of students enrolled at institutions of higher education, the same percentage as in 1976. In 2008, only 47 percent of black male students graduated on time from U.S. high schools compared to 78 percent of white males.

Shaun Harper, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, compiled these statistics in his research report dedicated to understanding how black men succeed in college.

Hosted by the Office of Academic Enhancement, Harper will present his results at the Newman Alumni Center at 11 a.m. on Friday in a lecture called “Why Some Black Males Succeed in College.”

His report titled “Black Male Student Success in Higher Education” is a black male college achievement study and the largest-ever qualitative research study of black undergraduate men. According to Harper, black male completion rates are the lowest among both sexes and all racial ethnic groups in the U.S. media.

He asked participants of the study to state what enabled them to succeed in higher education and called it the “common-sense approach.”

“If you want to understand how black men succeed in college, shouldn’t you ask black men who succeeded in college what enabled them to be successful,” Harper said in an article in Inside Higher Ed.

The study convened a cohort of 219 African-American males from different colleges and universities. The findings resulted in a variety of influences.

The results showed that parents and teachers have a major influence. Parents with their high level of involvement had a lasting effect on participants’ completion of higher learning. Teachers from at least one K-12 class helped because they took a personal interest in a participant’s academics and personal future.

Senior Adon Martin, an African-American male, can relate to some of these influences.

“A lot of people have put time, love and effort, ensuring that I reach my goals,” he said. “In every decision I make, I make it for myself and them as well because I don’t want to let them down. This includes my family, people at my church and in my community.”

With his passion, Martin was inspired to teach in inner-city public schools. He hopes to motivate new generations in the same way he was.

“My influences for succeeding stem from my passion to teach in the public school sector, specifically inner city schools,” he said. “Teaching as an African-American male who has a similar background, I can offer my gift and my passion to reach them in ways that others may not be able to.”

This motivation is the same mission behind an organization initiated by the African-American male population on campus, Brothers Overcoming Negativity and Destruction (BOND). It promotes male pride through self-enrichment and self-education, and provides general academic, social and leadership support for minorities.

Ikenna Okoro, president of BOND, hopes that his experiences can help him become a fellow role model for children.

“I’m motivated to complete college because that has always been a milestone that I have wanted to reach,” he said. “I also want to serve as a role model for younger kids who doubt themselves or who might not see the benefits of getting their degree.”

For detailed information on the study, visit gse.upenn.edu/equity/sites/gse.upenn.edu.equity/files/publications/bmss.pdf.