Gary Berg, PhD, MFA

Gary Berg, PhD, MFA

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Center Research Project: Case study on Latina/o and African American students in an online doctoral program: Understanding opportunities and challenges in the dissertation process and mentor relationships

What are common challenges in and outside the classroom for Latina/o and African-American doctoral students? What are the characteristics and patterns observed in the mentor-mentee Latina/o and African-American doctoral student relationships? How do Latina/o and African-American doctoral students evaluate the “value” of their degree?

Latina/o and African-American participation in doctoral programs nationally is low. According to the NCES (Condition of Education 2012), of the doctoral degrees earned annually in the United States, only 7.4% are African-American and 5.8% Latina/o students. Although rates are improving gradually, the lack of diversity in graduate programs nationally continues to be a significant problem, especially for the growing Latina/o population. The University of Phoenix, with its mission of open access to high quality educational opportunities, serves an unusually large percentage of ethnic minority students. The overall self-reported composition of the student body is 29% African-American, and 14.3% Hispanic (http://www.phoenix.edu/students/student-demographics.html). As a result, the University has played a unique role in American higher education by opening access to doctoral degrees to traditionally underserved populations, and has a wealth of data available from which researchers can learn about specific obstacles for students, best practices, and potential directions for doctoral programs wanting to better serve students.