Being a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, an African American fraternity, not only sparked Donald Mitchell’s research interests but led him to receive the 2012 Richard McKaig Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.
Mitchell, assistant professor of education, graduated from Shaw University in North Carolina in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He earned a master’s degree in education leadership in 2007 from Minnesota Sate University, Mankato.
Last year, he earned a doctoral degree in educational policy and administration, with a concentration in higher education, from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
“Since I was able to personally experience many of the social benefits of being a member of an African American fraternity while pursuing my doctoral degree, I became interested to see what influence these organizations had on undergraduate academic outcomes,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell’s interests led to his dissertation, “Are they truly divine?: A grounded theory of the influences of Black Greek-lettered organizations on the persistence of African Americans at predominantly White institutions.”
In November, Mitchell received the research award at the Association for Fraternity/Sorority Advisors Annual Conference. The award is given by the Center for the Study of the College Fraternity from Indiana University, Bloomington; its purpose is to foster research on fraternities and sororities.
“A lot of the time researchers and the media focus on the negative aspects of Greek organizations, so my research agenda examines the educational outcomes of these organizations,” said Mitchell.
The qualitative study conducted by Mitchell found that, in general, these organizations had positive effects on persistence levels among students, and members of the organizations reported having a social support system and being more involved and motivated to graduate.
“My research fits within a broader picture that looks at novel ways to keep students engaged and retained, and co-curricular organizations like these could provide the type of social support that is needed,” said Mitchell. “If there are positive educational outcomes within Greek organizations we need to look at replicating them within all student organizations.”
Mitchell said he looks forward to continuing his research regarding race and gender in higher education settings and he is currently working on an edited book proposal that examines the influences of student engagement of academic outcomes for diverse populations, among other projects.