The Vermont Connection


The purpose of this article is to discuss the lived experiences of African American graduate students (master’s level) enrolled at a predominantly white institution (PWI). I explore the experiences of graduate students lacking connection to their institution. I will also explore how institutional and systemic racism impact creating a space for African American graduate students to persist. I examine how persistence allows for these students to complete their degrees and feel a sense of connectedness to the institution. I will use the television (TV) series A Different World and The Quad to draw comparison and contrast to African American students’ sense of belonging and connectedness. There is a gap that exists within current literature that focuses on master’s level African American learners. Therefore, it is often difficult for the gatekeepers at majority white institutions to recognize this urgent need for change. Students desire student affairs professionals who look like them (value of sameness). This article is intended to provide context for scholars, scholar-practitioners, institutions, and students regarding African American graduate student experiences. For the purpose of this article, Black and African American will be used interchangeably. This is because Black is meant to be inclusive for members of the African Diaspora who identify as African American, African, Afro-Latinx, or Afro-Caribbean.