Understanding the Meaning African-American Men Give to Their Student Leadership Involvement and Engagement Activities in College
The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study was to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the lived experiences and perceptions of African-American (A-A) men who are persisting in college and who demonstrate participation in co-curricular activities defined as student leadership involvement and engagement activities (SLIEA). The study was designed to gain a better understanding of the meaning actively engaged A-A men make of their college experiences and how these experiences serve to guide their actions toward persistence in college. Ten A-A men from three different institutions participated in individual open-ended interviews. Results and findings indicate that regardless of students’ pre-college experiences, participation in SLIEA supported the integration of AA men to the college environment. Upon arriving to campus, immediate participation in SLIEA supports the adjustment of A-A men to college by exposing students to successful peers, college resources, and support system that encourage academic success. Research participants were able to identify beneficial outcomes, practical competencies, and personal gains that were the result of experiences supported by SLIEA. These include networking, time management, access to available resources, enhanced interpersonal communication, public speaking skills, and challenging oneself to set goals. Although participants expressed a challenge with balancing their academic workload alongside their commitments to SLIEA, these types of involvements served to support student learning and educational focus in college. Students were able to translate the influence of SLIEA on their classroom experiences, which contributed to their personal motivation and expectations for pursuing and achieving academic success, often supporting college persistence choices and behaviors.