Working Against the Odds: The Undergraduate Support Needs of African American Women

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Research on the socialization experiences, professional development, and success of students and faculty have generally emphasized the importance and role of advisors as the support mechanism for graduate or doctoral students (e.g., Baird, 1995; Bargar & Mayo-Chamberlain, 1983; Gardner, 2009; Golde, 2001; Lovitts, 2001; Tinto, 1993; Zhao, Golde, & McCormick, 2005), rather than the role that mentoring and support can have for undergraduate students. King (2003) defines mentoring as a relationship that “suggests a level of personal interaction, nurture, and guidance that exceeds the requirements of ‘good enough’ research advising” (p. 15). King further states that “rather than being concerned solely with the student's completing the dissertation or developing technical competence, the mentor is concerned with promoting a broader range of psychosocial, intellectual, and professional development” (p. 15). King's definition should not be confined to just students at a doctoral level. If we assume that the decision to attend college occurs for both personal and professional reasons, then it stands to reason that providing a different level of support and mentoring should also enhance both the personal and the professional aspects the academic experience for those involved, regardless of academic level. Thus, the one tool that could have lasting and profound effects for the academic success of African American women that clearly seems to be lacking is mentoring.