2014 Luther College Graduate Charles Martin-Stanley sent an update from his first month as a Student Affairs Administration Graduate Student in the Student Affairs Administration Department University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. He writes,
"The transformative experiences I had in my Africana Studies courses at Luther College really helped me to grow intellectually as a social justice advocate. I have always been passionate about social justice issues, which is why I decided to major in Sociology and minor in Africana Studies at Luther College. I have been very involved in social justice issues since graduating from Luther College and I credit my knowledge about social justice issues to courses I took in the Africana Studies and Sociology departments.
"My senior research paper at Luther dealt with the retention and persistence of students of color at small private liberal arts colleges like Luther College. This research began after I reviewed a national diversity index of all the schools in the United States. Based on this review, I created my own list of schools in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM). The diversity index was a scale where the level of diversity was measured on a scale from 1 to 0. If you had a lot of diversity then you would get a score closer to 1 and if you had a score closer to 0 then you didn’t have much diversity. I found that at 0.13 Luther College was at the bottom of the ACM list. I wondered why this was and so I decided to study why students of color stay at three predominately white institutions. The entire research study took about a year to complete. It had qualitative and quantitative aspects to it. In terms of the qualitative part of the research, I interviewed students, faculty, and administrators at the three colleges. The research process involved constructing a survey, developing interview questions, collecting data, transcribing interviews, analyzing survey data, and sharing my findings in professional settings. With respect to my major findings, I found that the top three reasons why students of color persist at their institution are because of academics, financial support, and friends. I was fortunate enough to present my research at several conferences around the country including one in Omaha, Nebraska and another in Las Vegas, Nevada. I’m very glad I was able to do this research because it might be helpful to Luther College in its efforts to recruit and retain student of color.
"Although I knew I wanted to go to graduate school after graduation, I wasn’t sure what field I wanted to go in. I was thinking about going for Sociology but I also really wanted to be able to continue doing work that would help students in higher education. I am now a graduate student in the Student Affairs Administration program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. This is a perfect fit for me because I am able to learn about helping students in higher education and develop professional skills that will allow me to advance social justice in education. Student Affairs professionals have a reputation for being very passionate about inclusive excellence and social justice. In addition to being a graduate student, I have a graduate assistantship as the research assistant in the Student Affairs Administration department. I am currently working on a research team that is studying white heterosexual males and their engagement and involvement with social justice issues. I am actually bringing this study to Luther College and so if any students who identify as white heterosexual males would like to participate, please email me. All of the work I am currently involved with is related to social justice and I am very appreciative that I am able to do work in an area that I am so passionate about.
"The Africana Studies department has prepared me well for graduate school. My critical thinking and analytical skills are enabling me to do very well in the first few weeks of graduate school. The ability to develop a voice and have a perspective on many social justice issues was nurtured in the Africana Studies department. The growth and development I experienced at Luther College was foundational and will stay with me for a lifetime!"