COE

COE’s Williams-Johnson presents at USG Diversity & Inclusion Summit

Meca Williams-Johnson, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Curriculum, Foundations and Reading, presented at the 2019 University System of Georgia Diversity and Inclusion Summit held in October.

A faculty member in the College of Education for 13 years, Williams-Johnson shared her research efforts on the influence of the rural context on students’ choices for post-secondary options as well as the factors that influences students’ decisions to attend college and the challenges they encounter that impact retention.

“I have designed a research study concerning African American students’ transitions after high school and how many get to and through college,” said Williams-Johnson. “The goal of this research is to examine the influence of the rural context on African American students’ choices for post-secondary options. After developing a relationship with several students over the years in a small rural area, I became confused at why so many students did not want to move away and attend college like I did as a high schooler. A pack of wild horses could not keep me from moving, and I am puzzled what factors compel students to stay in these rural areas.”

Williams-Johnson included a literature review on rural students that could help explain influencers of post-secondary decision making such as traditions and connections to place, as rural communities are notoriously strong and specific roles of the community, family and school are embedded in these individuals. Adolescents are also faced with challenges and uncertainties when considering leaving a familiar area to attend college. Additional influences discussed were influence social influence and self identity, as a social categories uniquely shape experiences and outcomes.

Actions steps were discussed among session attendees including ideas for providing resources for students to ensure they have meal assistance and ability to borrow or receive school supplies as well as programs and opportunities that can assist first generation and low socioeconomic status students.

“Identify policies at your University or College that are making a difference for these students,” said Williams-Johnson. “Change the ones that are not.”

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