Navigating the Canadian University System: An Exploration of the Experiences, Motivations, and Perceptions of a Sample of Academically Accomplished Black Canadians

Kevin Gosine

Abstract


This article reports findings from a qualitative study that explored the postsecondary schooling experiences, motivations, and perceptions of 16 high-achieving Black university students currently enrolled in or who have recently completed various high-profile university programs in Canada. While partly motivated to achieve the academic heights that they have by a desire for monetary reward and prestige, most participants were at least equally motivated by a desire to challenge racial stereotypes, be role models for Black youth, and put themselves in a position to improve the general situation of Black Canadians. There was considerable variation in how participants experienced the Canadian university system. Level of Black identification, gender, and field of study combined in unique ways in participants’ lives to shape their schooling experiences and problematize the notion of an authentic or monolithic Black experience within the academy. In reflecting on the dearth of Black Canadians in prestigious university programs such as engineering, law, and medicine, most participants tended to downplay systemic explanations, emphasizing instead individual and community-based factors. Future research directions are discussed.

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