Dr. Mark McMillian, PhD in Leadership and Change alumnus, published his dissertation entitled Black Parent Advocacy and Educational Success: Lessons Learned on the Use of Voice and Engagement. Black children encounter racism in American schools and parents need to advocate for them. The purpose of McMillian’s qualitative study was to explore how Black parents developed and used their voices to advocate for their children in a predominantly White educational system with a history of racially disparate outcomes.
Particularly, this study drew on the experiences of 15 participants, two men—one was a grandfather—and 13 women, whose children had successful outcomes in graduating from high school and going on to post-secondary education. The findings reflect Black parents’ understanding of the need to advocate to support their child’s success in getting through school: all related incidents of discrimination where they needed to speak up on behalf of their child in response to inequitable treatment within the educational system including in the classroom, participating in extracurricular activities, and in access to resources. Parents facilitated their use of voice on behalf of their children by cultivating engagement with the school, getting to know teachers and administrators, and being involved in their children’s activities, making sure they were seen to make sure they would be heard when needed.
Most parents in the study recalled role models in their own families as inspirations for their sense of voice in countering experiences of racism. These participants urged other Black parents to be involved and speak up for their children and to connect with and draw on the social support of other Black parents of children in school. These findings suggest that as we continue to work to address systemic racism disadvantaging the most vulnerable of our community, our children, parental voice by individuals and within the Black community contributes to getting heard at the educational decision-making table and producing positive educational outcomes for these students.
Dr. McMillian is a seasoned entrepreneur and has worked in diverse industries. As a consultant, he’s helped leaders to understand the things in their way and supported them in making the needed changes to motivate and lead their teams to perform. He’s trained, coached, and strategized with decision-makers on tactical and personal/professional development. He’s been self-employed having started businesses on his own, and he’s also worked in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors.