FYC Masters of Arts student Brice Dixon was one of three recipients of the College of Education and Human Development Alumni Society's Advanced Study Student Scholarships awarded on Friday, April 18, 2008 awards celebration held at McNamara Alumni Center.
Brice is originally from a small, rural town in South Carolina. He attended Morris College, a small historically Black college in a neighboring city and graduated number one in his class. During his final semester he served as a research assistant to a psychology professor who encouraged him to apply to top graduate schools. Brice sought out the top education programs in the country. “The University of Minnesota ranked number five at the time on U.S. News and World Report. I missed the deadlines for the first four schools, applied to the U, and was offered a spot in the FYC program and offered a nice scholarship," said Brice. Read Brice's personal profile below:
My educational pursuits after high school helped me learn and grow, cementing my commitment to education and rural youth. While I attended college full-time and took a full-load every semester, I have always devoted time to volunteer work in the surrounding communities. While at Morris College (undergrad), I served as a peer tutor, classroom aide, and student counseling assistant at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate level. In these positions, I learned much about the everyday experiences of rural youth at many stages of their development and ways in which to serve this population of students better. Later at the University of Minnesota, I served as a mentor for the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence for a year working with students from urban areas, an experience that gave me deeper insight into some of the unique issues rural youth face.
In the spring of 2004, I searched for a summer internship housed outside of South Carolina that would give me a broader perspective on education. I was accepted at a dynamite program, the Miami Summerbridge/Breakthrough Collaborative program, where I chose to teach three sections of 6th grade math and one section of Spanish. To prepare myself for the task, I visited three South Carolina middle school teachers in hopes of getting a sense of a “typical" 6th grade math curriculum. Each teacher I visited offered me a plethora of resource materials. Little did I know at that time how irrelevant these materials would be for the gifted students who enrolled in my classes.
I used the materials that I had received at the start of the program, but I noticed that my students were completing the work effortlessly. I realized that I had already met my students where they were and that it was time to move to their zone of proximal development. I introduced a fairly abstract idea from my college algebra textbook and told them that I believed they could do it. Surprisingly enough, they did. As a result of this experience, I witnessed firsthand the dynamics of Rosenthal’s research on teacher expectations and developed a greater appreciation for research.
When I returned to Morris College, I searched eagerly for a professor with research interests that would advance my thinking. I identified Dr. Adeleri Onisegun, a researcher on “Adult Perceptions of Youth Suicide." As her assistant, I received valuable academic training, knowledge of quantitative methods, and designed a study that complemented her research. My study explored the relationship between the amount of hours rural African American high school students read per week and their participation in youth health-risk behaviors. The data showed a negative correlation existed between hours of reading per week and participation in youth health risk behaviors. Another surprising theme seemed to emerge – the African American males surveyed reported participating in youth health risk behaviors with the highest frequency and engaging with text the least. My interest in pursuing graduate study piqued as a result of this study, and I scoured the web to find a program that would best prepare me to learn more about the implications of these findings and other methods of research. I applied to the FYC program here at the U and was accepted.
While quantitative methods were emphasized at my undergraduate institution, my classes and graduate assistantship at the University of Minnesota have provided me with opportunities to engage in and understand the importance of qualitative studies in the field of education. My current research builds on the study at my undergraduate institution linking reading to a reduction in health-risk behaviors. Currently, literature exists on reading in relation to gender issues, ethnic/racial issues, and locality (rural v. urban); however, there is limited literature that explores how these three issues intersect to speak to rural African American males’ experience of reading. I am interested in researching the experience of reading for rural African American males with hope that my study may fill this gap that currently resides within the research literature.