In the November 18th issue of the Los Angeles Sentinel, an article states that “Minorities Do Not Become Professors.” The article reports that University Faculty and/or Administrators must consider the differing needs of underrepresented minority graduate students to attract them into academic careers, according to a recent report sponsored by the California Community College Collaborative (C4) at the University of California (UC), Riverside. The report is based on interviews with 45 graduate students and 16 faculty and administrators at UC Riverside from 2008 to 2010.
Researchers found that administrators were not fully aware of the considerable challenges faced by underrepresented minority graduate students. They looked at all graduates as similar to themselves: locked into a career path that would lead to jobs at research universities or as a researcher in government or industry. But the report highlights five findings:
Positions outside a research university appeared to offer graduate students a better work-personal life balance, which was shown to be more important than the perceived benefits of a faculty career.
Students committed to a faculty career did not want to be told what to research. Instead, they wanted to undertake research that mattered to them, such as their families and community.
Race was an authentic influence for them.
International graduate students seek career flexibility as well as social purpose. They were connected to their cultural values, and were interested in helping other people through the knowledge the acquired receiving their doctoral degree.
Faculty and administrators’ perspectives shape and limit the potential possibilities of career choices for graduate students.
This report reminds me of a recent conversation I had with a group of parents regarding training our students for future careers. The world is changing ever so fast, and our students may not be interested in pursuing the kinds of careers as we did – or as we think they should pursue. As parents, and advocates for children, we need to constantly ask them what are their career interests. And then work towards giving them the resources to successfully pursue them. For a student to become a university professor he/she will accomplish it easier with a mentor. And for students who don’t know what career paths their interested in, we need to help them explore options that match their interests and skills.
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