Minority students perform better under minority professors, study shows

Minority students perform better under minority professors, study shows
Dr. Viola L. Acoff, Professor and Department Head of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering works with her graduate student Derrick Stokes at Center for Materials for Information Technology.

A new study shows that minority students perform better academically under minority professors. In a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers found that minority students in community colleges have better grades when their professor is the same race.

Researchers say the connection between minority students and professors is due to what they call the “role-model effect.”

"When you see someone who has commonalities doing something great, it inspires you,” said Bryan Fair, professor of law at the University. "I didn't know until high school that blacks earned PhDs."??

The University of Alabama’s faculty demographic numbers tell a story all on their own. In the fall of 2010, 5.3 percent of professors were black, 4.6 percent were classified as Asian, 1.6 percent were Hispanic and 83.8 were white.

“I’m an engineering major and I don’t have any teachers who are black,” said Jelami Hardwick, a black senior majoring in electrical engineering. “But it’s not an issue for me because a lot of the administration are black.”

The University has a comprehensive strategic diversity plan in place to diversify the University’s faculty and student body, said UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen.

The plan establishes five goals that commit the University to better communicating its commitment to diversity as part of its educational mission: create and sustain an inviting, respectful and inclusive campus environment; increase diversity within the faculty and senior level administration and the student body; and annually review goals and assess effectiveness of the action steps and initiatives in enhancing diversity within the University’s educational mission.

“Since I’ve been at the University I have not had a minority professor,” said Asia Stephens, a junior majoring in human development and family studies. “When I studied abroad this summer I had two minority professors and a minority dean of diversity come on the trip.”

But minority students are not the only group of students who could benefit from having minority professors, Fair said.

“In some ways, diversity among the academy will also benefit white students,” Fair said, “Especially those not used to minorities in leadership positions."

Patsy Dempsey, a sophomore majoring in secondary education social science has a different take on the story.

“It’s awkward in my history class when we go over slavery in United States’ history,” Dempsey said. “Because people see you’re white and in Alabama, assume you have some history with slavery, racial problems and so on.”

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