Innovative Higher Education

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 197–213 | Cite as

Exceptional Female Students of Color: Academic Resilience and Gender in Higher Education



In researching the exceptional academic performance of 31 female and 19 male low socioeconomic college students of color, three distinctly female approaches to exceptional achievement arose from the data. These included the inordinate degree of familial resistance faced by the females and their approaches to that resistance, the value and importance of post-college goals and ambition, and the presence of effective cross-gender mentoring relationships. The impact of racial, ethnic, class and gender-based identities in relation to academic performance is also explored.

Key words

academic resilience gender differences college student retention 


  1. American Council on Education. (2006). Students of color make dramatic gains in college enrollment but still trail whites in the rate at which they attend college. Retrieved March 12, 2007, from
  2. Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R., & Tarule, J. M. (1986). Women’s ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  3. Bowen, H. R. (1977). Investment in learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.Google Scholar
  4. Bush, D. M., & Simmons, R. G. (1987). Gender and coping with the entry into early adolescence. In R. C. Barnett, L. Biener, & G. Baruch (Eds.), Gender and stress (pp. 175–201). New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cresswell, J. W. (2005). Educational research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.Google Scholar
  6. Crutcher, B. N. (2007). Mentoring across culture. Academe, 93(4), 44–48.Google Scholar
  7. Curry, T., Jiobu, R., & Schwirian, K. (2005). Sociology for the twenty-first century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  8. Dugan, T., & Coles, R. (1989). The child in our times: Studies in the development of resiliency. New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  9. Ely, M. (1991). Doing qualitative research: Circles within circles. New York, NY: The Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  10. Ford, C. (1996). Resilience and psycho-social variables of African-American men. Challenge: A Journal of Research on African American Men, 7(3), 17–29.Google Scholar
  11. Gandara, P. (1995). Over the ivy walls: The educational mobility of low-income Chicanos. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gardynik, U. M., & McDonald, L. (2005). Implications of risk and resilience in the life of the individual who is gifted/learning disabled. Roeper Review, 27(4), 206–216.Google Scholar
  13. Garmenzy, N. (1991). Resiliency and vulnerability to adverse developmental outcomes associated with poverty. American Behavioral Scientist, 34(4), 416–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gayles, J. (2005). Playing the game and paying the price: Academic resilience among three high-achieving African American males. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 36(3), 250–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Geertz, C. (1973). Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. In C. Geertz (Ed.), The interpretation of cultures (pp. 3–30). New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  16. Gibson, M. (1996). The school performance of immigrant minorities: A comparative view. Education and Urban Society, 29(1), 262–275.Google Scholar
  17. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gilligan, C. (1990). Teaching Shakespeare’s sister: Notes from the underground of female adolescence. In C. Gilligan, N. Lyons, & T. J. Hanmer (Eds.), Making connections: The relational worlds of adolescent girls at Emma Willard School (pp. 6–29). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Goh, D., Ogan, C., Ahuja, M., Herring, S., & Robinson, J. C. (2007). Being the same isn’t enough: Impact of male and female mentors on computer self-efficacy of college students in IT-related fields. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 37(1), 19–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gordan, K. (1995). Self-concept and the motivational patterns of resilient African–American high school students. Journal of Black Psychology, 21(4), 239–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gordan, E., & Song, L. (1994). Variations in the experience of educational resilience. In M. Wang, & E. Gordan (Eds.), Educational resilience in inner-City America: Challenges and prospects (pp. 27–43). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  22. Gore, S., & Eckenrode, J. (1994). Context and process in research on risk and resilience. In R. J. Haggerty, L. R. Sherrod, N. Garmezy, & M. Rutter (Eds.), Stress, risk, and resilience in children and adolescents: Processes, mechanisms, and interventions. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Johnson, B. W. (2006). On being a mentor: A guide for higher education faculty. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  24. Johnson, J. A., Musial, D., Hall, G. E., Gollnick, D. M., & Dupuis, V. L. (2005). Introduction to the foundations of American education. New York, NY: Pearson.Google Scholar
  25. Josselson, R. (1987). Finding herself: Pathways to identity development in women. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  26. Kaufmann, F. A. (1999, January). The 1964–1968 Presidential Scholars: A follow-up study. Paper presented at the Girls Into Engineering, Math, and Science conference of the National Science Foundation, Tempe, AZ.Google Scholar
  27. Kaufmann, F. A., Harrel, G., Milam, C. P., Woolverton, N., & Miller, J. (1986). The nature, role, and influence of mentors in the lives of gifted adults. Journal of Counseling & Development, 64(9), 576–578.Google Scholar
  28. Kerr, B. (1985). Smart girls, gifted women. Columbus, OH: Ohio Psychology Publishing.Google Scholar
  29. Kerr, B., Robinson, K., & Kurpius, S. E. (2004). Encouraging girls in math and science: Effects of a guidance intervention. High Ability Studies, 15(1), 85–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kerr, B., & Sodano, S. (2003). Career assessment with intellectually gifted students. Journal of Career Assessment, 11(2), 168–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kitano, M. K., & Lewis, R. B. (2005). Resilience and coping: Implications for gifted children and youth at risk. Roeper Review, 27(4), 200–215.Google Scholar
  32. Kirk, J., & Miller, M. (1986). Reliability and validity in qualitative research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  33. Liddle, H. (1994). Contextualizing resiliency. In M. Wang, & E. Gordan (Eds.), Educational resilience in inner-city America: Challenges and prospects (pp. 167–177). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  34. Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Masten, A. S. (1994). Resilience in individual development: Successful adaptation despite risk and adversity. In M. C. Wang & E. W. Gordon (Eds.), Educational resilience in inner city America: Challenges and prospects (pp. 3–25). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  36. McCubbin, L. (2001, August). Challenges to the definition of resilience. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, CA.Google Scholar
  37. McCracken, G. (1988). The long interview. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  38. Milstein, M., & Henry, D. (2000). Spreading resiliency: Making it happen in schools and communities. Thousand Oakes, CA: Corwin Press.Google Scholar
  39. Morales, E. E. (2000). A contextual understanding of the process of educational resilience: High achieving Dominican American students and the resilience cycle. Innovative Higher Education, 25(1), 7–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Morales, E. E., & Trotman, F. (2004). Promoting academic resilience in multicultural America: Factors affecting student success. New York, NY: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  41. Myers, H. F., & Taylor, S. (1998). Family contributions to risk and resilience in African American children. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 29(3), 215–229.Google Scholar
  42. Nelson, M. L., Tierney, S. S., Hau, J. M., & Englar-Carlson, M. E. (2006). Class jumping into academia: Multiple identities for counseling academics. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53(1), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Noble, K. (1992). Living out the promise of high potential: Perceptions of 100 gifted females. Journal of the California Association for the Gifted, 12(1), 18–28.Google Scholar
  44. Odell, P., Korgen, K., & Wang, G. (2005). Cross-racial friendships and social distance between racial groups on a college campus. Innovative Higher Education, 29(4), 291–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  46. Peter, K., & Hern, L. (2005). Gender difference in participation and completion of undergraduate education and how they changed over time. National Center for Educational Statistics. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from
  47. Perna, L. W. (2005). The Benefits of higher education: Sex, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic. Review of Higher Education, 29(1), 23–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pollack, W. S. (1998). Real boys: Rescuing our sons from the myths of boyhood. New York, NY: Random House.Google Scholar
  49. Rubin, H., & Rubin, I. (1995). Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data. Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  50. Rutter, M. (1979). Protective factors in children’s responses to stress and disadvantage. In M. W. Kent, & J. E. Rolf (Eds.), Primary prevention of psychopathology, vol. 3: Social competence in children (pp. 354–386). Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.Google Scholar
  51. Seidman, A. (2007). Minority student retention: The best of the Journal of College Student Retention. Amityville, NY: Baywood.Google Scholar
  52. Spradley, J. (1979). The ethnographic interview. New York, NY: Holt, Reinhardt & Winston.Google Scholar
  53. Taylor, D., & Lorimer, M. (2003). Helping boys succeed. Educational Leadership, 60(4), 68–78.Google Scholar
  54. Ungar, M., Brown, M., Liebenberg, L., & Othman, R. (2007). Unique pathways to resilience across cultures. Adolescence, 42(166), 287–311.Google Scholar
  55. U.S. Census Bureau. (2001). Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, 2001 Supplementary Survey, 2002 through 2005 American Community Survey. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  56. U.S. Census Bureau. (2005). Facts for features: Women’s history month: March 2005. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from Release /www/releases/archives/facts_for_specialeditions
  57. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2005). The condition of education, 2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  58. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). The condition of education, 2007. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  59. Wang, M. C., & Gordan, E. W. (1994). Educational resilience in inner city America: Challenges and prospects. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  60. Watson, L., & Watson-Franke, M. (1985). Interpreting life histories: An anthropological inquiry. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Werner, E. E., & Smith, R. S. (1982). Vulnerable but invincible: A longitudinal study of resilient children and youth. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Elementary and Secondary EducationNew Jersey City UniversityJersey CityUSA

Personalised recommendations