Book By: Green, Anna L. & Scott, LeKita V., Editors
Review By: Brenda R. McGill
Advising and Counseling, Flanagan Campus
Community College of Rhode Island
The vast collection of personal experiences in the Journey to the Ph.D. should kindle a student’s desire to continue their efforts to obtain a prized terminal degree while maintaining a reality-based view of the experience. This collection of seventeen personal accounts provides a guide to the selection of an institution, instructions on how to navigate through that institution, and what to expect from the experience. Thus, it affords direction to the novice as well as the experienced scholar.
Students and advisors alike will connect with the clarity of the experiences shared within this text. Contributors confirm the depth of strength required to flourish within the pressures of a Ph.D. program as they provide specific details related to scholarship, the academic-political environment, and the mentoring relationships “essential to retention and attrition issues of African American students and faculty” (p. 226). The significance of these shared experiences promotes “quality leadership (which) comes from deeply bred traditions and communities that shape and mold talented and gifted persons” (West, p. 56). The authors accomplish their goals through a repeated thread of voices that clarify the academe’s acceptance process and the necessity for self advocacy.
Institutional support at predominately white institutions has a dramatic effect on the numbers of African American students who successfully maneuver the waters of the Ph.D. process. Programs such as the Holmes Partnership, Black Graduate Student Orientation Program, and Preparing Future Faculty are examples of established institutional support. Efforts of this magnitude are essential in establishing a positive environment to increase the numbers of future African-American students. Their pursuit of academic excellence can only flourish in this milieu. Connection to national and regional associations such as the National Black Graduates Student Association Inc. and Sisters of the Academy are noteworthy instruments for maintaining a cultural identity. Moreover, strong mentoring is valuable to “affirm … and validate” (p. 259) the African American students’ academic research and community service aspirations.
Readers will find that ideas, suggestions, and experiences are often repetitious; this serves to strengthen the authors’ acknowledgement that these important issues be kept at the forefront. For the student “seeing the Ph.D. as a process not a product” is a lesson well learned and will allow “an open mind to the various opportunities that present themselves inside and outside of the educational arena” (p. 273).
The increasing number of successful graduates who reach back within the academe to help another is a central theme and serves as a motivator to see the Ph.D. completer as a leader in their community. This is a lofty goal best accomplished by following the tenets of this work, for, as Cornel West stated, “The crises in Black leadership can be remedied only if we candidly confront its existence.” (p. 69). Advisors would do well to recognize and address the concerns represented in the Journey to the Ph.D with their students. Green and Scott speak to the needs of the traditional, the non-traditional, the minority, the at-risk student who has excelled, and to the advisor who desires to make a difference. “None of us alone can save the nation or the world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.” (West, p.159)
West, Cornell. (1994). Race Matters. New York: Vintage Books
Journey to the Ph.D.: How to navigate the process as African Americans. (2003). Book by Green, Anna L. & Scott, LeKita V., Editors. Review by Brenda R. McGill. Stylus Publishing. 240 pp. $18.95 (paperback). ISBN 1-57922-079-7.