The relationship of race-related experiences and perceptions on college students' social integration and academic adjustment at a predominantly white university

Chavous, Tabbye Maria, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Robert Sellers, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Reppucci, Nicholas, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Allen, Joseph, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

This study represents the investigation of a model of social and academic outcomes for African American and White college students. The model incorporates factors specifically related to students' racial group: students' prior interaction with other racial groups and their perceptions of their college racial environment. Elements from existing student development models also are incorporated into the present model. A study sample of 215 African American undergraduate students and 144 White undergraduate students from a predominantly White university were recruited for the study. Survey measures, self-report demographic measures and student records were used to obtain information regarding background, perceived, racial climate, sense of community, organizational participation, and academic performance outcomes. The data were analyzed using multivariate methods that were sensitive to issues of sample size and construct validity. Analyses delineated individual and climate factors related to students' social integration and academic performance in conjunction with factors related to their pre-college background.

Researchers examining African American students at predominantly White institutions often have assumed, implicitly or explicitly, that African American students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds will interact in certain school types (in terms of size, racial make-up, and prestige) in similar manners. The present research utilized both a race-comparative and a within race approach to address this issue. This was done in order to establish the unique influence of race-related experiences and perceptions on college outcomes for African Americans while allowing the examination of African American students as a heterogeneous group with regard to background, perceptions of the school environment, and experiences in the environment.

The study model proposed that students' pre-college interaction with other groups would influence individuals' perceptions of the way that race works in their college environment (perceived racial climate). Students' perceptions of the racial climate would, in turn, influence their degree of social integration. Finally, social integration would affect students' academic success. Little evidence was found for effects of social outcomes on academic adjustment factors for African American or White students. However, racial background was directly related to academic adjustment for African American students. Racial background and racial climate perceptions predicted students' sense of community, their participation in university organizations and the racial make-up of these organizations. Further, these relationships differed for African American and White students. The findings are discussed in terms of: (1) person-environment interactions and their relevance for educational research on African American students and (2) the importance of the use of valid measures of student integration to capture the experiences of African American students and other students accurately.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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