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Prof’s Study Sparks Media Interest

July 25, 2013

A study led by Dr. Daniel J. “Jake” Simmons of Angelo State University’s communication faculty is drawing national attention for its discussion of the experience of black students at predominantly white universities.

The five-year study, “Understanding the African-American Student Experience in Higher Education Through a Relational Dialectics Perspective,” first appeared online on July 17 in the journal Communication Education, a publication of the National Communication Association.  Simmons’ collaborators for the study were Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart of Amarillo College, Dr. Shawn T. Wahl of Missouri State University and Dr. M. Chad McBride of Creighton University in Nebraska.

“What the study really is,” Simmons said, “is we’re studying competing tension in language and the implications of that language.  The original study feels a lot less controversial than the attention it’s getting.”

Since its initial release, the study has sparked articles and responses in publications and on websites around the country, including InsideHigherEd.com, HuffingtonPost.com, newspapers in New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Nashville, and many others.  Their main concentration is on the study’s findings that black students at predominantly white universities face specific challenges.

“Too many people had assumed we lived in a post-racial society,” Simmons said.  “For universities, this is the perfect opportunity to continue to educate students and professors about racial tensions, about the importance of maintaining cultural identity and to enrich all students’ cultural experiences.”

Led by Simmons, the researchers conducted interviews at three predominantly white institutions – a Midwestern public university, a Midwestern private university and a Southwestern public university.  They conducted two focus groups at each university, made up of five to seven African-American participants per group.  In each group, researchers used a set of five questions to guide a discussion about race.

“We can always improve our intercultural relations with our students, and that’s the goal,” Simmons said.

The study has also received positive reviews from ASU President Brian J. May and Texas Tech University System Chancellor Kent Hance.

“It demonstrates their support of faculty research,” Simmons said.  “I am proud to be conducting research of international attention as a faculty member of Angelo State.”

The full text of the study can be found online at www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03634523.2013.813631.

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    Dr. Daniel J. "Jake" Simmons

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