Nation & World

Harvard, ETS to study diversity at predominantly white colleges

2 min read

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, has announced a collaboration with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) on a study of the experience of undergraduate members of racial and ethnic minorities on predominantly white college campuses.

Funded by a one-year, $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the study, called “The Voices of Diversity,” will survey minority women and men about their curricular, co-curricular, and social experiences in order to provide a comprehensive account of campus factors that make them feel welcome and unwelcome, respected and disrespected, supported and unsupported, and encouraged and discouraged. This is the first study of its kind to combine a focus on students’ own perspectives with in-depth quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Gates, the principal investigator on the project, said, “This study is absolutely necessary right now, as we face the continuing challenge of the achievement gap between minority students and their white counterparts. The information we glean from this study will help us understand better the wide variety of factors that influence student performance.” The project focuses on undergraduates attending four universities in the United States. Researchers will use questionnaires and interviews with African-American, Asian-American, Latina/o, and Native American students as well as white students to generate their data.

Gates added, “By uncovering factors that promote students’ academic and social success, we can assist administrators, educators, and policymakers — not to mention students and their families — to improve campus environments and students’ experiences.”

Co-principal investigator on the project is Michael Nettles, senior vice president at ETS’s Policy Evaluation and Research Center. Paula J. Caplan, a research associate at the Du Bois Institute and a former professor of applied psychology at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, is the project’s director.