Updated: Jan 22, 2020
I experienced a lot of highs my senior year of high school. The freshman black girls were more accepting of me so I was finally able to relate a bit. I did well on my AP exams, received awards for my academic performance and was accepted into the accounting program at UIUC. I wanted to go to UIUC for four reasons, my mother went there, it was the number one accounting program in the nation, the campus was inspiring and it wasn’t too far away from home (3 hour drive). Additionally, the Associate Dean of Students & Director of Minority Student Affairs, the same person that recruited my mother to the school almost 30 years prior, was still there so it was nice having someone to connect with on campus and the Associate Dean of the business school was black. Per Powell, “it’s not just what you know, it’s also who you know, and “school, work, and voluntary organizational foci provide the great majority of ties that are not kin (Powell, 126).” It was the first time I’d seen black people in leadership positions in academia and I wanted to be around that. I was truly inspired.
As with most institutions, injustice was hard to miss. UIUC is segregated. 3% of UIUC’s 40,000 students were black and they were all clustered together on the same side of campus. These dorms were also the furthest away from ‘the quad’ (center of campus) and they were the most outdated. A lot of my black peers did not enter UIUC the traditional way. “One corrective strategy is to identify and institute policies and practices that interrupt key in-domain or cross-domain linkages and this dampens the effects of the initial harm (Powell, 127). Many of them entered through affirmative action programs established to help correct the impact the injustice they’d faced having attended sub-par schools. Some of my peers didn’t even know what advanced placement classes were. I was able to graduate in 4 years with 154 credits and 2 degrees because I had so many credits from high school. The education gap was in full force and we were all only 18 years old. I recall sending math books in high school to inner city schools when we were done with them. This gap didn’t just result from subpar schools, it resulted from lack of access and opportunity, lack of income, and poor neighborhood resources, amongst other things. “It is often the interaction between institutions, rather than the operation of each in insolation, that generates racial group disparities” (Powell, 122).