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The Filter Ep. 4: ‘Graduation Day’ For Students of Color, Higher Education is a Different Course

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Above image credit: The Filter podcast talks race and equity in higher education.
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2 minute read

It’s graduation season. But for college graduates living in a pandemic, ceremonies have been postponed and family gatherings canceled. 

Statistics abound about the pandemic, but COVID-19 has disproportionately affected black and Latinx populations in the U.S. – both in the number of cases and death rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The resulting pandemic anxiety has combined with academic stress to take a particularly heavy toll on students in those racial groups. 

Even though students of color make up roughly 45% of the undergraduate student population, they are less likely to ask for help despite higher levels of depression and anxiety. This is exacerbated by student debt, racism on campus and lack of support.

A study published in the American Psychiatric Association online journal, found that college students in certain ethnic minority groups were more likely to report feeling “hopeless or so depressed it was difficult to function.” 

In this episode, we learn why. We take it back to middle school, high school and college days and get real with three guests who now work in higher education. 

Jeff Perkins, a Kansas City native, shares his journey from being a student in high school to attending a predominantly white institution where he encountered racism, and how his story as a black, queer professional fuels him as an intercultural specialist at Ohio State University.

Ivan Ramirez recounts his journey as an immigrant, his sense of belonging in school and how allies helped him become a Latinx mentor at Avanzando, a mentorship program for Latinos in academia at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Finally, Sandra Enriquez, a self-described “point-five” first-generation college graduate with a PhD, tells her story becoming one of the few Latina history professors at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

  • Jeff Perkins, guest on The Filter podcast
  • Sandra Enriquez, a professor at University of Missouri - Kansas City
  • Ivan Ramirez at an event

Hear the rest of their stories in this episode of The Filter.

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