In the last 20 years the emergence of diversity research has served to increase our understanding of the racial and cultural aspects of doctoral student experience. This work has great potential for telling institutions about the influence of their programs, academic cultures, legacies, and campus climates. In considering Black/African American doctoral students, this work acknowledges our history and often reflects on student perceptions the doctoral process. These perceptions are vital to supporting institutional goals where racially and culturally focused initiatives can thrive. We must continue to examine statistical portraits on historically marginalized students and conduct more qualitative and mixed methods studies to identify aspects of the student experience that have been minimized, misunderstood, and forgotten. Though we’ve made progress, we’ve only scratched the surface of this work.
During the last few years there has been a surge in social media groups devoted to building networks supporting the historically marginalized doctoral experience. It’s been great to see the variety of support and its broad reach into many communities where no support may have existed otherwise. Social media continues to be a formidable venue for supporting students in environments where programmatic efforts lack focus on valuing the racial and cultural aspects of student experience. And, doctoral students themselves are able to use their social media identities to celebrate aspects of their experience that’s personalized. As these efforts continue, I’m encouraged to think about how many students have benefitted from academic collaborations developed out of these networks and how these connections facilitate academic success.
Studying the doctoral experience has come a long way since I was in graduate school. And, for those of us interested in strengthening support of doctoral students to better serve them, our institutions and communities, celebrating this progress is essential to recognize the value in the path leading us to where we are today. As I continue with this work, I’m reminded of my student experience and hope this work inspires, uplifts, and encourages students, faculty, and institutional leaders to consider new ways for embracing the racial and cultural aspects of student experience.