Leadership Development among African American Students

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It is difficult to provide curriculum rich avenues for African American students that yields opportunities to develop their leadership skills and positively impacts their persistence from initiation to graduation. Trigg (2006) notes that while there are over five hundred colleges and universities in the United States that offer programs on leadership and leadership development, there are far fewer that offer programs specifically on women’s leadership. In addition, despite the rich landscape of literature in leadership studies, there is little research exploring how leadership develops or how one’s identity as a leader develops over time (Komives et al., 2005). Further, even less research is available about Black women and HBCUs leadership development.

There is a lack of sufficient higher education empirical research regarding NPHC sororities’ impact on leadership, identity and perceptions of persistence toward graduation (Fries-Britt & Griffin, 2007). Empirical research compels institutions to support to historically marginalized people (Davies, Lubelska, & Quinn, 1994; Strayhorn & McCall, 2012. Also, despite the vast landscape of literature in leadership studies, there is insufficient research detailing how leadership develops or how one‘s identity as a leader develops over time (Komives, Longerbeam, Owen, Mainella & Osteen, 2005). It is the intersection of gender, ethnicity and sorority affiliation that directs this study. This study surveyed and interviewed historically Black Greek Letter sorority members on their lived experiences and perspective regarding leadership skills gained, personal identity development and persistence perceptions while affiliated with an NPHC sorority at a HBCU.

Student leadership development most readily appears through peer group interactions (Hrabowski, 2004; Kimbrough, 1995). Student involvement in campus-based organizations, Greek life, and sports teams provides practical leadership development through involvement. Dugan and Komives (2010) suggest that within the same organization the content and quality of leadership education varies, with the largest disadvantage impact amongst minority women.

African American women college participation rates in campus organizations yield increased graduation rates (Harper et al., 2004; Kimbrough & Hutcheson, 1998; Allen, 1992). Black sorority involvement is a component of this success (King & Fergueson, 2001; Kimbrough, 1995). For over 110 years, NPHC organizations have been an integral part of the experiences of African American students in higher education (Kimbrough, 2003; Ross, 2000). Many renowned world leaders are members of these organizations, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King and Maya Angelou (Parks, 2014).

NPHC organizations are so prominent that in 1988, filmmaker Spike Lee directed a controversial movie on Black Greek and HBCU life entitled School Daze. This film was a visual depiction of all things HBCU and NPHC associated during an iconic homecoming weekend. Director Lee incorporated aspects of scholarship, friendship, hazing, and leadership development. School Daze received mixed reviews due to the portrayal of NPHC organizations, HBCU culture and societal influences (Lucas, 1988). While School Daze premiered over 30 years ago, scholarship, camaraderie, and leadership are still relevant in NPHC organizations today.

NPHC sorority participation provides social, personal and professional identity development for organization members (Harper et al., 2004; Kimbrough & Hutcheson, 1998). As Horowitz (1987) indicates, fraternities and sororities have produced some of academe’s most visible college leaders. Kimbrough and Hutcheson (1998) indicated that “despite these plaudits, fraternities and sororities have received increasing amounts of negative publicity in recent years, causing many in society, and in higher education specifically, to question the need for these organizations to exist” (p. 97).

In recent times, the organizational brands have expanded to conceptualize not only service commitments and academic rigor, but social implications and identities for current and prospective members. Still, several researchers insist that the Greek life experience permits students to learn leadership traits by following role models found within their campus chapters and gain additional leadership experiences within their and the larger, national Greek community (Greyerbiel & Mitchell 2014; Childs, 1993; Shaffer, 1983). However, with this knowledge, there remains a greater focus on the experiences and persistence of men of color (Harper, et al. 2004). There is a void of research directly exploring African American leadership development and persistence concerning sorority affiliation at a HBCU. Additionally, there is not a focus on intersectional identity with regard to gender and race, specifically, as it dictates leadership potential and persistence with sorority involvement (Harper, et al., 2004).

The purpose of the present study sought to explore the impact of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) sorority affiliation on leadership, identity and persistence perceptions for African American women at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). The research was explored through the viewpoint of a three-prong intersectional theory analysis, qualitative interview data and initial survey data. There are three areas of theory that guided this study: Josselson’s Women’s Identity Development Theory (1990), Schlossberg’s Theory of Transition (1989) and Cross and Fhagen Smith’s Black Identity Development Theory (1971). These theories frame the topic and yield an understanding of female identity, Black identity, and student leadership identity development.

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Leadership Development among African American Students. (2021, Aug 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/leadership-development-among-african-american-students/

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