Skip to page content

Professor wins fellowship to study college access among rural black students

Sometimes, solutions are created not because of a problem, but despite it.

This is the case for black and rural high school students who want to attend college—despite the barriers they face, they still find ways to succeed.

Now, thanks to a fellowship recently awarded to a University of Georgia College of Education faculty member, these solutions for success—typically, their knowledge, abilities and social networks—will be easier to identify and replicate to better support rural black students.

Darris Means, an assistant professor in the department of counseling and human development services, is one of 30 chosen as a 2017 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. He will spend the upcoming academic year studying seniors who attend rural high schools in Georgia as they navigate the college choice process. The fellowships are administered by the National Academy of Education, an honorary educational society, and funded by the Spencer Foundation.

"This study looks at rural black students and college access and choice," said Means. "There's research out there about what doesn't work and the barriers, but this will focus on students' knowledge, social networks and other things students utilize on their pathway to higher education—to focus on what works."

By focusing on the ways students access a college education, Means added, he can help build a framework that can be replicated by rural schools across Georgia and the country.

More than 200 postdoctoral researchers applied for the $70,000 award, which has been in place for more than 30 years. Means' research joins other cutting-edge topics such as equity in mathematics education, dual-language programs, and the connections between educational policy and suburban land development.

For Means, the opportunity to focus on the topic of educational access helps achieve his goal of working in higher education.

"One of the reasons I wanted to pursue a career as a college professor was to use research to improve policy and practice," he said. "I feel like, with this fellowship, I'll have the space and the time to think about that, and really address what works and share that with practitioners, school counselors and others working on college access issues."