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Florida State University

Men of Color in Higher Education: New Foundations for Developing Models for Success

Jazmine K.J. Williams, Grand Valley State University

Men of Color in Higher Education: New Foundations for Developing Models for Success serves almost as a manual for institutions looking to service and maintain its population of men of color. Consisting of several different chapters, this text is dedicated to exploring the challenges (and the perceived ‘crisis’) different racial groups of men experience while pursuing higher education. It is a guide to rethinking our approach to supporting and understanding these groups and, more importantly, how different these groups are from white males, women of color, and even each other. Each chapter was written by different experts on the communities they are discussing, giving the reader a detailed understanding and historical context of what challenges these students are facing and why previous popular solutions have not been as effective. Additionally, breaking this topic into racial categories allows the authors to pinpoint flaws and missing pieces in previous research, general perceptions, and popular practice.

While each chapter covers a different racial/ethnic group, the common thread of methodology links them. In the first chapter, “The Problem of Patriarchy”, authors Edmund Gordon PhD, the chair of the African American and African Diaspora department, and Celeste Henery PhD, a post-doctoral fellow, both from the University of Texas at Austin, introduce the theoretical framework. They identify the main theories and concepts used as: critical race theory, intersectionality, and feminism. Additionally, they discuss the concept of patriarchy and how it shapes the relationships between genders and also dictates relationships between men by creating norms of how masculinity should be performed. In relation to this they introduce the concept of ‘respectability’ as the base of some of the challenges facing men of color. Finally, this chapter carefully includes black women, not as a place of comparison, but as a place to create a historical reference for understanding the research (or lack thereof) on black males.

In chapter 2 “Intersectionality,” Robert Teranishi, The Morgan and Helen Chu endowed chair at University of California Los Angeles, and Loni Pazich, a PhD candidate in higher and post-secondary education at New York University, explore the flaws in most research on men of color in higher education, specifically Asian men. In particular, the reduction of Asian populations to “model minorities” and how research often overlooks the numerous ethnic groups within that racial category; essentially rendering them invisible or without needs or assistance. Using the foundation of intersectionality, they look at these differences and how they affect achievement and the kind of support needed for success, despite stereotypes and assumptions that place Asian males as a population not in need of services.

The following chapter, “Ahistoricism in the Native American Experience”, was completed by LeManuel Lee Bitsoi and Lloyld Lee. Bitsoi is an associate in the department of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University, Lee is an assistant professor of Native American studies at the University of New Mexico. Bistsoi and Lee use this chapter to establish a foundation of understanding about Native American history, in relation to their culture and the government. They offer and explanation to why Native American men face challenges in traditional (white) university settings by recounting often disregarded history. Finally, using tribalCrit and Native feminism, the authors offer suggestions of alternative ways to address and view what is seen by outsiders as a deficit in the Native American community.

In chapter 4, “Masculinity: Through a Latino Male Lens”, Victor Sáenz and Beth Bukoski PhD discuss the challenges Latino men face. Similar to chapter one, this chapter takes masculinity and interprets it through the concepts of Machismo and Familismo, arguing that white heteronormative notions of masculinity in academia leave little room for men of color, leading to competiveness or dropping out. Sáenz, an associate professor in educational administration at the university of Texas Austin, and Buoski, an assistant professor at University of Louisville, build the foundation of their argument by explaining the framework of both the feminist and men’s movement and how they are sometimes in opposition. Using this historical context of men of color’s relationship to patriarchy, they suggest that men of color are not equipped with the social capital needed to succeed at institutions based in white masculinity and therefore tap into, sometimes against their own interest, pride and independence. Most importantly, they end by moving away from theorizing and examine a group of Latino males’ feedback using a Chicana feminist lens and provide suggestions for alternative ways to support these students beyond the scope of on campus programs.

The final chapter, “(Re)Setting The Agenda For The College Men Of Color: Lessons Learned From A 15 Year Movement To Improve Black Male Student Success” Shaun Harper Phd, faculty in the Graduate School Of Education, Gender Studies, and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, concludes this text by investigating similar themes to chapter four, but focused on African American males. Additionally, he discusses the historical context of the “black male crisis” in higher education. Harper points to the numerous papers, programs, and seminars created to help this population in parallel to the lack of funding, planning, or attempt to involve students in problem solving. Using this understanding, Harper ties it all in by referring back to the overarching theme of different racial and ethnic identities housed under the term ‘men of color’, as well as other intersecting identities, and what plans could be put in place to support these groups.

Overall, this manuscript provides a fresh perspective on a long standing concern in higher education. Additionally, it offers alternative solutions to the, sometimes reactive, actions many universities have taken. One of the most impactful strengths of this text is its topic; however using a feminist approach sets it apart from other work done in this area. The authors make a point to not only recognize, but include previous research, while simultaneously pointing out concerns about where this research is coming from and why. The authors address some of this by including the experiences of groups that are viewed as successful or invisible in the academic world, Asian and Native American men.

Given the topic, approach, and academic voice of this book, it is ideal for academics, student affairs professionals, and anyone working in the field of higher education. Nevertheless, the information provided would be even more pertinent to those working with male students of color preparing to enter college, such as high school counselors and even parents. Because some of the ideas may be considered contentious to some parents and students, high school counselors, using information gleaned from this text, may have even better success in helping parents prepare their students for the transition. Ultimately, the ideas put forth by these authors are simply a starting point- a place to begin rethinking how our field views, approaches, and offers support to a group we sometimes treat as homogenous, men of color pursuing a higher education.



L Bitsóí, L. L., Gordon, E. T., Harper, S. R., Sáenz, V. B., & Teranishi, R. T. (2014). Men of color in higher education: New foundations for developing models for success. R. A. In Williams (Ed.). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

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