Date of Award

8-7-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Wenfan Yan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Cathy Kaufman, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Monte G. Tidwell, Ph.D.

Abstract

The majority of our nation‟s academic institutions fall short in their efforts to ensure that African American students successfully persist from admission to graduation. Since the majority of African American students attend Predominately White Institutions (PWIs), these institutions must be held to the highest standard of accountability for African American student retention. Therefore, PWIs must explore alternative retention mechanisms that will increase the African American student‟s integration into campus life. This study examined the perceived effects of gospel choir participation on the retention of African American students at a PWI. Qualitative methodology was utilized to assess whether or not participation in this specific extracurricular activity had implications in support of African American student persistence. Using the social integration component of Tinto‟s retention theory, this researcher explored whether or not gospel choir participants maintained stronger linkages to the campus and their African American and spiritual heritage, thereby decreasing feelings of marginalization and increasing persistence. Individual interviews and focus groups were held with student choristers and the choir‟s musical staff to assess perceived feelings of integration. Through the summarization of qualitative responses, it was found that African American student choristers felt an overwhelmingly strong sense of support from their peers and the musical leadership of the gospel choir. Some students reported that the choir was their primary reason for remaining at the institution. This study concluded that gospel choir participation decreased feelings of marginalization and enhanced feelings of social integration. Therefore, this study encourages PWIs to consider college gospel choirs as an additional resource when attempting to positively impact African American student persistence at a PWI.

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