Living two Lives: The Ability of Low Income African American Females in their Quest to Break the Glass Ceiling in Education Through The Ellison Model (TEM) Mentoring Approach
Hoyt, DaVina Julia
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It is often that during their academic pursuits, to become successful, low-income African-American women must learn to navigate an upstream current through higher education, where the established order in the academy is based on Western European values that often conflict with African-American values (Harper, Patton & Wooden, 2009; Phinney, Ong and Madden, 2000). Because many lack preparation and tools for success in higher education, without immediate intervention, low-income college students tend to experience academic failure during their first semester at the university level (Acevedo and Herrera, 2002). The present study analyzed eight interview transcripts of African American women, all of whom had been mentored through Hunt's Inclusive Community Building Ellison Model (The Ellison Model) (Hunt, 1994). The data described the participants' experiences in higher education and their perceptions of The Ellison Model and its role in assisting them to overcome the "glass ceiling" in higher education. Analysis of the transcripts involved: (a) emergent coding wherein a preliminary review of the data revealed themes, including (a) mentoring/support, (b) dialogue between mentor and mentee, (c) conflict resolution, (d) The Ellison Model values, and (e) living two lives. Further, categories were created to examine the data more closely. Findings of the data showed a consensus among the perceptions of these women from low-income background of the existence of a glass ceiling as they pursued higher education. This glass ceiling was perceived variously: (a) an external glass ceiling, (b) a self-imposed glass ceiling, and (c) a lowered glass ceiling. Moreover, the study showed that the women perceived mentoring as an effective means for assisting low-income African American navigate between home and university space, "living two lives" (Hoyt, 2003). Finally, the study showed the profundity of The Ellison Mentoring Model, specifically, as a viable approach to helping low-income African American women overcome the glass ceiling as they pursue higher education. This study has implications for higher education institutions in their efforts to recruit, retain, and graduate more ethnic and gendered minority students, and confirms the benefit of a mentoring component as a major part of student service programs at higher education institutions.