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Bridging the Gap: Programs for Diverse
Student Populations

Summer bridge programs and comprehensive cultural centers can significantly enhance the educational experiences of diverse student populations on college campuses, according to research conducted by James M. DeVita of UNCW's Watson College of Education.

The first faculty member hired to work with the new higher education concentration in the Master of Education and Doctor of Educational Leadership programs, DeVita has extended his research on underserved populations in higher education, focusing on issues related to access and success for marginalized groups on campus. In the past year, he has been recognized for the contributions of his work to the field of higher education in multiple venues.

One of the most notable is research titled "Leadership for Equitable Access and Transition into Higher Education," which was published in the Handbook of Research on Educational Leadership for Equity and Diversity.

DeVita's research with colleague Terrell Strayhorn from The Ohio State University, which appeared in the former publication, shared findings and recommendations on issues related to access and the critical transitions of "at-risk" students from secondary to post-secondary institutions.

DeVita and Strayhorn shared findings from several studies within the publication, concluding that compensatory transition programs such as summer bridge programs assist at-risk students with the transition to college by providing meaningful opportunities to academically and socially engage with an institution. For example, results indicated a significant increase in students' mean academic self-efficacy, a major predictor of college success, following participation in a five-week bridge program. Their research also demonstrated the need for enhanced institutional, state and federal supports for transition programs including enhanced collaboration between secondary administrators and teachers and post-secondary faculty and staff as well as additional funding.

DeVita's work with Allison Anders from the University of South Carolina, which appeared in the Handbook on Gender and Sexualities, focused on the experiences of black gay male undergraduates at predominantly white institutions of higher education. The unique focus of this publication allowed DeVita and Anders to explore the complexities associated with success in college when students are forced to encounter issues of racism and homophobia in their everyday lives.

Similar to DeVita's other work, this publication provided recommendations for campus administrators and faculty members about countering the negative effects of unwelcoming campus climates for students from marginalized groups. These recommendations include taking an intersectional approach when providing support for diverse student populations, for example by developing a cultural center to serve multiple identities or encouraging collaboration among centers designed to support black and LGBTQIA students rather than supporting each individual population separately. Findings from this project were shared at two international conferences in 2013, including the American Educational Research Association's Annual Conference in San Francisco, Calif., and the conference on Ethnographies in Higher Education in Prague, Czech Republic.

In spring 2013, DeVita was selected as one of six Emerging Scholars by the Association of College Student Educators International for his significant record of scholarship on issues related to college students' identity and development. The Emerging Scholars selection is highly competitive and recognizes past contributions to the field of higher education as well as the likelihood of future contributions.