Historically, black colleges and universities have produced leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., former US Representative John Lewis, and US Vice President Kamala Harris, but the political makeup of his students, particularly the way they form their political views and values, has not often been explored.
A new project from the University of Central Florida College of Education and Community Innovation aims to change that with a recent award of more than $ 120,000 from the US National Science Foundation.
The project will focus on studying the culturally relevant messages and political socialization of historically black college and university students and how these factors influence political interest and participation.
Political socialization refers to the political values and opinions that are instilled in people as a result of the people around them and their social environment.
"When people think of black youth and political socialization, they tend to think of voting in partisan elections," says Amanda Wilkerson '16 assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and UCF Higher Education who is leading the project. “But what is going to convince someone to get involved in an issue that may have nothing to do with choosing a president, governor, or senator? That's so important because socialization involves beliefs, values, attitudes, and that's more than just voting. And that's what I want to get at. "
Even the choice of school a student attends can have an impact on their policy, says Wilkerson.
" What the HBCUs they generally do very well is to develop students regardless of their skill set or background, ”she says.“ They really try to support those students. ”
Wilkerson says her own experiences going to college historically black inspired her to investigate further political socialization in these institutions.
"If you've ever gone to an HBCU and seen student campaigns run, you will be amazed," says Wilkerson. " It's a microcosm of the real world with billboards, brochures, and the messaging they developed that speaks to the interests of students. "
Wilkerson will work with Rebecca Entress, a doctoral candidate at College o f Community Innovation and Education, in the study. They will conduct interviews and surveys with campus leaders at two HBCU campuses in the southeast. His research will assess students' political attitudes, the political communication channels they use, and how students identify political problems and frame them in the messages they receive.
"I think this work is important because there is not much knowledge about it in the field, and I think we are going to be able to illuminate this area of higher education," says Wilkerson. "And the connection for me personally is that I can learn more about a population that I am deeply connected to and have a passion for."
Wilkerson received his Ph.D. in higher education education and policy studies from UCF and joined the UCF Department of Educational Leadership and Higher Education, part of the College of Community Education and Innovation, in 2019.