“The Shoulders on Whom We Stand”
On Thursday, September 17, 2020, a day before the 28th Annual McNair Scholars Research Conference, Michael Hunt introduced the Hill-Robinson Lecture. Hunt shared the impact that Dr. Cynthia M. Hill, Former UMBC Associate Provost & Founding UMBC McNair Director, and Dr. Thomas Robinson, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies & McNair Research Methods Faculty, has made on the McNair community. Hunt used this time emphasize the importance of remembering “the shoulders on whom we stand”.
Dr. Jasmine Lee’s Dissertation
During the Hill-Robinson lecture, Dr. Jasmine Lee, Director of Inclusive Excellence & Initiatives for Identity, Inclusion & Belonging in the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), shared her dissertation with the title, “Counter-stories of Academic Resilience at PWIs”. Lee discussed the emotional, financial, and psychological challenges one faces as a college student who is black, first-generation, and comes from a low-income family.
Black + First Gen + Low Income
During this segment, Dr. Lee shared and broke down the common experiences and barriers that black, first gen, and low-income students face at PWIs, and how broad these challenges and barriers are. She then went on to elaborate on how these barriers impact the students mentally and emotionally. Even with these experiences and barriers, the students impacted still showed a resilience when it came to their education and their goals, and Dr. Lee took her audience through how she went about finding out how students were able to demonstrate that academic resilience.
To move forward with her study, Dr. Lee explained how she used the theoretical foundations of critical race theory, input-environment-outcome, and local model of student success. She then explained what each of these foundations mean and how they play an important role in her study.
Dr. Lee then went on to share the testimonies, or counter-stories, of black, first gen, and low-income students who share how they were able to be resilient in their academics. Some of the students shared how they did it because they wanted to give back to their communities, help support their families, or just because they wanted better for themselves. Some students also shared how they get their motivation from the people before them who fought and sacrificed their lives for them to have access to higher education, and that helps them to continue to strive.
Theory to Practice
As she concluded her study, Dr. Lee talked about different ways and practices that faculty and staff of these PWIs can do to support black, first gen, and low-income students. She first discussed how these practitioners should “honor and strengthen non-cognitive variables”, which would include college transition and helping students navigate the system and better “understand racism withing higher education”. The second practice that she mentioned is “over-mothering, fictive kinship, and the village model”. With this, she talked about the importance in being involved in the students’ success, both academically and personally, given the fact that the students are away from their families. Her last practice that she suggested was “affirmation, support, and advocacy”. She made sure to include this in her study because she wanted her audience to understand the value of being an active participant in student success. The level of support through affirming the students and showing up for them when they need it the most, is vital.
At the end, Dr. Lee gave her audience a few takeaways. She mentioned how we need to remove, as she put it, “color-blind practices and programs” that fail to address the issues that black, first gen, and low-income college students are facing. That being said, she stated that it is important to take into account “student narratives in order to adequately develop programs and interventions to address their needs.” She pointed out that students have different experiences before their undergraduate careers that have helped them gain strength and determination.
Dr. Lee mentioned the important fact that “students are not failing. We
are failing them.” This was an important point that Dr. Lee made
because it is crucial that, for students who are first-gen, black, and
from a low-income family, faculty and staff learn how to properly
support the students based on their needs, instead of taking a
cookie-cutter approach. The Hill-Robinson lecture was wonderful and,
though it was online, it did a beautiful job encompassing the value of
community and support, and was a great way to open up the conference.
If you want to take part of this wonderful experience, click on the link below to watch the lecture!