Derrick Woodard: Understanding the Black Experience at PWI FSU

When looking back over the proposed schedule created for this summer, much of the project was followed as planned. My research mentor, Dr. Dawn Matthews, and I were able to host two black student focus groups. Each focus group was made up of one gender and they both took place in May 2021. The point of these focus groups was to explore the black student experience at FSU before and during the COVID pandemic. We also took the liberty of opening the floor for discussions to take place regarding the social unrest during Summer 2020. Every response given by our research participants was taken seriously and were recorded for further analysis regarding any prominent themes. For both focus groups, we made sure to establish safe spaces for each student to participate in. This paved the way for discussions between our participants to erupt and allow ideas from one student to ignite another idea in someone else.

Derrick Woodard

Particularly for the black women study participants, these students were able to expand on their experiences at FSU. For the most part, each participant was able to elaborate on why FSU was the school for them and how they were able to adjust to a predominantly white institution (PWI) that differed from their home surroundings. As the discussion progressed, Dr. Dawn and I started to get into their experiences as black women at FSU. Our women participants began to share their overwhelmingly negative experiences. These women discussed how they were not offered much assistance from FSU professors, academic advisors, and other staff members. Furthermore, they explained how part of their experiences has resulted in them dealing with race battle fatigue. Lastly, they spoke about the challenges they faced during the Summer 2020 social unrest and how they had to manage while continuing with school. Much analysis is still being done on the transcripts received from this focus group.

Similarly, the black men participants also were allowed a chance to discuss their experiences at FSU. As the focus group progressed, each participant spoke on why they chose FSU and their transitions to a PWI. Furthermore, as we continued to ask questions about their experiences, the black men described themselves as having relatively positive experiences at FSU. Some participants spoke on how Florida State has many resources and staff that are always willing to assist in their pursuit of higher education. Participants within this group also mentioned how they managed to deal with course load during the social unrest of Summer 2020. The prominent themes collected from the black men focus group varied from our black women focus group. Further analysis is being done to determine any causality of the stark difference between the prominent themes of each focus group.

Besides the analysis of the transcripts, much of my research project has been completed. Currently, Dr. Dawn and I are recruiting more black men for another focus group to determine whether they would share similar responses to the original black men group. The goal is to complete the research project before the beginning of the Fall semester.

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