Reconceptualizing Graduate School Preparation: Examining Undergraduate Scholars' Responses to a Critical Race Curriculum
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Scholars estimate that fifty to fifty-seven percent of doctoral students across disciplines do not complete their Ph.D. These rates are troubling given that racial/ethnic minorities and women have been found to be overrepresented in the number of students who leave their doctoral programs. These findings have strong implications for graduate school preparation programs (GSPPs) that are charged with increasing the number of underrepresented students who earn doctoral degrees. Past studies examining the experiences of graduate students of color have found frequent reports of racial/gender microaggressions. The nature of these microaggressions are often intertwined with various facets of academic politics and hostile climates which are related to factors that contribute to doctoral attrition. In discussions to reform doctoral education and improve the experiences of racial/ethnic minorities, researchers recommend targeting the socialization process and agree on the need to be explicit about academic politics and make the insights and success strategies of graduate students of color accessible. I argue that GSPPs are positioned to initiate these recommendations since their students undergo the process of anticipatory socialization. Moreover, I argue that it is equally important to create a curriculum that addresses how systemic racism and patriarchy have shaped U.S. graduate education, including for students to comprehend how White supremacist capitalist patriarchal ideology is enacted through doctoral socialization. The purpose of this study was to develop and pilot a critical race curriculum for graduate school preparation that shares the community cultural wealth of graduate students of color and builds a critical comprehension of academia. To understand how racial/ethnic minorities responded to the curriculum, data was collected from four female undergraduates who were affiliated with a GSPP and volunteered to participate in the study. The findings revealed that a critical race curriculum elicited significant topics that arose for undergraduate scholars during their socialization which have implications for their scholar identity. The four themes that emerged from the data include: fighting for credibility, navigating gender inequality, wrestling with academic socialization and building a critical awareness. I conclude with emphasizing the importance for GSPPs to involve their students in theorizing and creating more equitable institutions.