EHHS faculty members honored with advancing diversity scholarship award

Erica Fowler

Janice Byrd and Christa Porter didn’t know each other before coming to Kent State, but their passions for improving the lives of black women brought them together.

 Byrd and Porter, who are both faculty members in the College of EHHS, were honored at the 2018 Diversity and Scholarship Celebration on Saturday for their research on underrepresented and underserved individuals.

 “I think it is very meaningful and humbling to get it acknowledged for something that I don’t necessarily see as work,” Byrd said.

 “We looked at the experiences of black women in college, specifically at three different institutions,” Porter said. “We looked at a predominately white institution, Kent State; a private elite school, Carleton College; and a historically black college university, Prairie View A&M University.”

 Byrd and Porter conducted interviews and focus groups at these institutions to learn about the stories of black women and the struggles they face while in college.

 “We gleaned a lot of different information that will be very informative to not only college campuses and women that are preparing to go to college, but then also the families and K-12 institutions that are preparing the students to enter into a college environment,” Byrd said.

Byrd and Porter’s research was driven by personal experiences in their own lives. Porter, an assistant professor in higher education administration, received her Ph.D. in Counseling and Student Personnel Services from the University of Georgia.

“I remember being in my undergraduate and master’s program and I couldn’t see myself in the literature, I couldn’t see myself in the scholarship, I couldn’t see myself in what we were reading,” Porter said. “And so I was adamant that when I did get a Ph.D., or the platform to contribute to the scholarship, I would do that.”

Byrd, an assistant professor in counselor education and supervision, received her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.

“This is a privileged position that I have a Ph.D., because very few people that look like me have a Ph.D.,” Byrd said. “I think that comes with a responsibility to share these stories and narratives.”

Although Byrd and Porter are proud to be recognized for their research contributions, they made it clear that their work is not yet finished. Byrd and Porter aim to use their research to create better experiences for marginalized individuals.

“We take it as a responsibility and an honor to keep the work moving forward,” Porter said.

Erica Fowler is the education, health and human services reporter. Contact her at [email protected]