Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication Studies


Communication Studies

First Reader/Committee Chair

Corrigan, Thomas


For decades, a racial “achievement gap” has persisted in U.S. higher education. Specifically, White students have outperformed Black students on a number of indicators, including college admissions, standardized test scores, and graduation rates. This graduate project considers several explanations for this persistent inequity. The root of the problem, it argues, is U.S. higher education’s history of racism and exclusion and the oversaturation of whiteness in these institutions. In other words, U.S. higher education was built for and continues to serve White students at the expense of Black students. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) show us that when whiteness is diluted, Black students can thrive. However, HBCUs have not, historically, enjoyed the same resources as primarily white institutions (PWIs). This graduate project argues that the California State University and other U.S. higher education institutions must take steps to dilute whiteness in their structures, policies, and curriculum.

To assist the CSU in these efforts, the author created a “white paper” titled, Transforming Black Students’ Higher Education Experiences and Lives: A Proposal for the CSU (Appendix A). This white paper, which is intended for consideration by the CSU Board of Trustees, describes the history of racism and exclusion in U.S. higher education, the persistent racial achievement gap, and some of the reasons for that persistence. Then, it presents a 3-part policy proposal for transforming the experiences of the CSU’s Black students. Specifically, it calls on the CSU Board of Trustees to elevate one of the University’s minority-serving institutions – California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) – to the system’s flagship campus; to charge CSUDH with operating a campus-wide learning lab for developing structures, policies, and practices for most effectively educating its minority students, particularly African Americans; and to have CSUDH disseminate that guidance for adoption or adaptation at all of the CSU’s campuses. In doing so, it is argued that the CSU can transform the academic and lived experience of Black and other minority students and help them achieve their full potential.