“Paths They Take, Moves They Make”: A Presentation by Anthony Jack

by Megan Melloy,  Program Associate (College & Alumni Programs)

College Scholar Michael "Mo" O'Connell, Anthony Jack, and Jack Schuler
at the College and Alumni Scholars Winter Party

We recently posted about Anthony Jack’s presentation to our college and alumni scholars at the Winter Party. We asked Anthony to speak at this event because his personal experiences are similar to those of many Schuler Scholars. Originally from Miami, Florida, Anthony is the son of a school monitor and is a first-generation college student. He studied Women’s and Gender Studies and Religion at Amherst College where he graduated cum laude in 2007.  Currently a Harvard Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, Anthony is generally interested in race, culture, urban poverty, and education. His research at Harvard explores diversity in higher education with particular interest in the college experiences of first-generation college students at elite colleges after the enactment of more expansive, class-based affirmative action. As a college access program, we were excited for him to join us and share his personal experience and his research, both of which are so relevant to the work we do.

In his presentation to the scholars, Anthony covered his personal experiences before and at Amherst, with a focus on identifying strengths and specific skills one acquires through overcoming adversity. Before speaking at the Winter Party, Anthony met with Schuler Scholar Program staff members to discuss his findings and implications for our program. His presentation to our staff, entitled “Paths They Take, Moves They Make,” covered his research at Harvard. This research explores why individuals from equally disadvantaged class backgrounds and similarly impoverished neighborhoods experience the same college so differently. The majority of students who participated in his research participated in programs that give first-generation students accelerated access to cultural capital that they need in order to be successful in college. Some of the students Anthony interviewed participated in pipeline (extraction) programs like Prep for Prep while others participated in enrichment (non-extraction) programs like the Schuler Scholar Program.

One key hypothesis from Anthony’s research is that students who are permitted greater access to dominant forms of cultural and social capital before college experience the culture shock of entering college to a lesser degree.  The extent of exposure—whether it be arts participation or total immersion via relocation—influence the degree of culture shock felt on the college campus. While the specific results of this variation in exposure vary for individual students, we’d like to look at the implications of Anthony’s research for our program because the type of programming we offer that focuses on development of cultural capital can be more targeted to the college experience.

Because we are situated in our Scholars’ neighborhood high schools, we focus on supplementing their home and school experiences with programming that exposes them to the culture they will experience at highly selective private colleges and universities. We know giving scholars the tools to navigate the dominant culture will help them when they get to college, but we are also beginning to see that empowering our scholars to recognize their own resourcefulness and resiliency will equip them to succeed uniquely on their college campuses and beyond. Anthony’s presentation helped to drive this point home, especially with regards to our Transitions to College program for high school seniors. He advised that we focus on mitigating culture shock, negotiating relationships at home, and helping scholars find mentors and institutional resources on their campuses. We aim to continually incorporate these tenets into our programming while acknowledging the strengths that our scholars bring to any table at which they sit, whether it is in their homes, their high schools, their colleges, or beyond. 


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