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Instructing and Mentoring the African American College Student: Strategies for Success in Higher Education

August 5, 2007

By Wessel, Roger D Summers, Serilda J

Instructing and Mentoring the African American College Student: Strategies for Success in Higher Education, edited by Louis B. Gallien, Jr. & Marshalita Sims Peterson. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, 2005, 196 pp., $36.99, paperback. Reviewed by Roger D. Wessel, Ball State University and Serilda J. Summers, Reed College

Faculty and staff in colleges and universities must be keenly tuned to the needs of students in higher education, open to, and understanding of, people from diverse backgrounds and aware of student needs so that they can be successful in their pursuit of higher education. Instructing and Mentoring the African American College Student: Strategies for Success in Higher Education, is a valuable tool to help individuals working in colleges and universities better relate to and help African American college students achieve their goals. While the focus of this book is on working with African American college students, many of the suggestions provided are applicable to all college students regardless of ethnicity.

Gallien and Peterson make the case for culturally responsive college classrooms and climates using examples of successful strategies in higher education. The authors essentially provide a primer for faculty and staff who have had little contact with African American students by suggesting strategies for interacting with this unique group of students. “This book focuses on the types of academic environments that are conducive to positive scholastic results for African American college students. . . this work assists administrators, professors, and graduate students who daily interact with Black students in higher education with successful strategies to further their academic progress” (p. xi). What sets this work apart from other resources is that it initiates a conversation on college pedagogy including optimal conditions and environments for the success of African American college students.

Instructing and Mentoring the African American College Student is organized into two sections. Part one, providing programmatic and institutional strategies, begins with an overview of the historical and cultural context for educating African American college students as presented by Gallien. Following this introduction are detailed strategies for retaining, mentoring, communicating with, and assessing African American students and institutions. Zenobia Hikes discusses how to maximize student success, current factors and initiatives that impact retention, and cultural affiliation of Black students on predominately White campuses. Successful mentoring strategies within HBCUs, including faculty/student scholarly engagement and peer mentorship, are provided by Cynthia Neal Spence. Marshalita Sims Peterson offers strategies for effective communication including nonverbal communication patterns. The roles of faculty, students, and the institution in developing assessment strategies of student learning at HBCUs are provided by Joya Anastasia Carter and Louis Castenell.

Part two of the book presents voices from the field, practical and contemporary approaches for challenging and motivating Black students in the classroom. Joan Wynne discusses how to teach African American students within the cultural context. She explains the spiritual connection to education and how to use music in the classroom. Incorporating Black cultural learning styles into the instructional process are provided by Angela Farris Watkins. Duane Jackson offers teaching strategies for “feared courses” including how to incorporate “statistical project teams” when teaching statistics courses. Fleda Mask Jackson describes the living and learning program at HBCUs with special focus on convocations, themed residence halls, and learning weekends. The editors finish the book with a synthesis of the issues discussed and offer a research agenda on the campus and classroom environment, curricular dissonance, communication patterns, assessment, service learning, mentoring, and spirituality.

The editors were helpful by organizing each chapter of the book in a user-friendly way. Headings and subheadings help the reader easily maneuver through the topics: It reads like a manual on how to help African American college students succeed in higher education. The reviewers found the concluding thoughts at the end of each chapter, followed by a thorough list of references, also helpful.

Another favorite of the reviewers was the stories of successful mentoring strategies within HBCUs. Xavier University, Spelman College, Morehouse College were provided as best practice institutions. The Andrew Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship Program is described as a successful program for helping minority students in the biological or physical sciences. Another particularly valuable chapter was the discussion of learning styles of African American students. The author demonstrates how to integrate various learning techniques (including spirituality, harmony, movement, verve, affect, communalism, expressive individualism, orality, and social time perspective) into college courses. The chapter is a perfect example of what is most striking about this book – the practical application of successful strategies for college students by experienced educators.

This book should be used by faculty members, student and academic support educators, and graduate students who are working with African American college students while developing programs and services to challenge and retain them to graduation. It would be an ideal resource to give to faculty members during new faculty orientation programs. Instructing and Mentoring the African American College Student gives insight into what universities and colleges should do to make African American students feel comfortable, academically successful, and engaged. The editors (Gallien, a professor of urban education at Regent University, having taught at Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Emory University; and Sims Peterson, chair and assistant professor in the Education Department at Spelman College) were successful in providing a resource on how to instruct and mentor African American college students.

Reviewed by Roger D. Wessel, Ball State University and Serilda J. Summers, Reed College

Copyright Howard University Spring 2007

(c) 2007 Journal of Negro Education, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.




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