Alienation and stress : African American graduate students' psychological well-being at a traditionally white institution
Kennebrew, Sigrid Yvette
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As the demographics of traditionally White institutions (TWIs) in the United States become increasingly diverse, the need for awareness regarding the experiences of students from underrepresented groups is imperative. Past research on African American college students has generally focused on the traditional undergraduate matriculant; however, this study focuses on the experiences of African American graduate students who attend a TWI. Various factors can create a sense of alienation and stress that affect not only their academic success and career development, but also the psychological wellbeing of the African American graduate student. Counseling psychologists can incorporate knowledge of mental health needs into programming and retention efforts to enhance African American graduate students’ overall experiences at TWIs. The purpose of this study was to examine the psychological well-being of African American graduate students attending a large, state-supported, southeastern TWI. This research specifically investigated the influence of Black identity, spirituality, and social support on feelings of alienation, race-related stress, symptoms of depression, and hopelessness. A mixed-method research design was utilized to conceptualize this study. Seventy-two African American male and female master’s, specialists in education, and doctoral students participated in the quantitative component of the study. Participants in the qualitative component were 38 African American male and female graduate students who discussed their experiences at this institution, evaluated the impact of their participation in the quantitative component, and discussed the present status and future of African American graduate students and TWIs. Results indicated that Black identity did not significantly predict feelings of alienation, depression, or hopelessness; however, private regard significantly predicted race-related stress. Integrative spirituality significantly predicted race-related stress, while spirituality did not significantly predict alienation, depression, or hopelessness. Statistical significance was found in the predictive ability of social support for hopelessness, but not for alienation, race-related stress, or depression. Qualitative data analysis resulted in three categories (a) disempowerment, (b) exploration, and (c) empowerment which describe the focus group process as the participants’ discussed their psychological well-being. Suggestions for future research, program development issues, and counseling implications are discussed.