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Student's Research Digs Up Award

A research paper completed for a class last fall has earned Berea College senior Lakeya Chase more than good marks. She has received regional recognition for her work. At the encouragement of Professor Andrew Baskin, she entered her paper entitled “African American Acculturation on Predominately White College Campuses and Universities: the Katrina Aftermath” in the 2007 Hornsby Essay Contest and won.

Lakeya Chase

The essay contest is sponsored annually by the Southern Conference on African American studies. In addition to a monetary award, Chase has been asked to present her results at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., on March 30.

Chase, a native of Lawrenceville, Ga., is working toward a double major in sociology and African American Studies. She starts the introduction to her paper with a bold introduction, “African Americans on predominately white college campuses throughout the United States are often viewed as traitors by their own race.” Chase, as a researcher, set out to answer the question, “To what degree are African American students specifically, losing their identity to acculturation by whites on predominately white college campuses?”

With the help of Dr. Austin Matthews, her senior research methods professor, Chase found an important key to finding her answer – a proven tool called the African American Acculturation Scale, which she gave to a pilot group of 29 students in Baskin’s classes. Of those, 17 were African American. The questions are designed to measure religious beliefs and practices, preferences for things African American, interracial attitudes, family practices, health beliefs and practice, cultural superstitions, segregation and family values.

The results were not what she expected. “Some students that identified themselves as European (American) scored higher on the scale than those that (were) identified as African American. This goes to show that there are some African Americans with little African influence on their current Americanized lifestyles.”

Baskin is excited about Chase’s research. “Do these (predominately white) institutions help African Americans to destroy or preserve their culture? What does it mean if white students score higher than African Americans on surveys that deal with black culture?” he asks.

The first semester senior, who is described by Baskin as “hard working, dedicated, willing to listen and accept criticism and committed to helping society improve,” is currently doing a full-scale survey of 100 students, half of whom are African American and half of whom are of other racial groups. “I think it is interesting to see how much of the African tradition African American students must lose in order to become successful by the standards of the American society,” she explains.

Chase is thrilled to be able to continue her research for her senior research project under the new GSTR system. “This is one of the new perks of the new curriculum. Students are able to build on previous undergraduate research. ... I just want to encourage all students … to take their academics seriously. What began as an ordinary research project has opened many doors in my life and for that I am grateful. ... When you are in the will of God, no man can shut the doors of opportunity set before you.”

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