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Navigating bridges and barriers: A case study of the James Baldwin Scholars Program

Yaniris M Fernandez, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Retention of students at undergraduate institutions, especially in liberal arts colleges has become increasingly important. Liberal arts colleges are distinct because unlike universities they have small enrollments, serve undergraduates students, are residential and its primary goal is to provide a liberal arts education to its students. Students who typically attend liberal arts colleges come from academically prepared and from privileged backgrounds, however, these students are often not enough to sustain enrollment assumptions. Therefore, students who are less prepared and come from low socio-economic backgrounds are accepted to into these colleges to compensate for the difference. This situation leads institutions to be strategic about creating programs to enhance these student's academic and social skills and help them persist. Thus, it is in the best interest of these colleges to have retention strategies in place to help these students persist and graduate. It is also in the best interest of these students and of society that they be given equitable chances to succeed in higher education. This study assesses the James Baldwin Scholars Program, a program for academically under prepared and economically disadvantaged students, by incorporating a combination of existing retention/persistence models and examines the impact the Program had on student's satisfaction and persistence. Using interviews and surveys of current Baldwin Scholars, alums of the Program, and associated faculty/staff as a method of triangulation to examine the student's persistence, I compared and contrasted the expectations and experiences, and discussed the sources of support and challenges of the Scholars with those of the Baldwin alums, faculty and staff at Hampshire College. As a result, the findings from this study suggest that these students experience a journey filled with programmatic, academic and social supportive bridges and challenging barriers that define their experience. Findings from this study demonstrate that students are most likely to succeed in this type of program when expectations are clear and when the students’ experiences match the expectations---a situation that is more likely to help students find, build and maintain bridges to success while navigating barriers to persistence.

Subject Area

School administration|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Fernandez, Yaniris M, "Navigating bridges and barriers: A case study of the James Baldwin Scholars Program" (2007). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3275807.