Dr. Seanan Kelly was on campus this past week, meeting with students and sitting down for an interview with me. He came to Albion with a goal: to get students and faculty discussing issues with one another about their role in campus society and how others view that role.
On Thursday, Nov. 7, Kelly gave a guest lecture hosted by the Ethnic Studies department. His lecture, titled “Student Athletes: Race, Gender, and College Graduation,” was hosted in the Bobbit Auditorium.
Kelly received his B.A from Arizona State University in Studio art, and he went on to receive both a master’s degree in leadership and policy and an E.D D in higher and postsecondary education at the same institution. When we sat down on Wednesday, Nov. 6, we discussed what inspired him to write this particular dissertation, and why he chose to focus on student athletes.
“The shortest answer is personal investment,” Kelly said. “My path into the academic world is somewhat nontraditional if only from the standpoint that I didn’t see myself in that role.”
Kelly’s lecture revolved mainly around African American male student athletes playing division one basketball and football across the country.
“Focusing on student athletes is less jumping on the band wagon of critique and more saying I have membership in that group,” Kelly said.
Kelly played division one football during his undergraduate time at ASU. He stated that the experience of being a student athlete in such a high-profile sport truly shaped his undergrad experience and the way he saw other student athletes, particularly African Americans.
“I could find myself on campus, I had a race and gender membership, whether it was with my coach or professors,” Kelly said. “What do students see, hear or think when the language is perhaps not their own?”
During his research Kelly focused on the graduation rates of student athletes in basketball and football and how those graduation rates differed over the races.
“The teams are relatively 50/50 in terms of race, but then you look across the graduation rates of Division one,” Kelly said. “There’s an almost 20 percent gap in degree attainment. White males graduate in the 80 percent range whereas African American males graduate in the 60 percent range.”
Kelly also says that the rates of degree attainment are increasing, but the gap between the two races isn’t getting any smaller.
During his lecture on Thursday evening, Kelly discussed the different lenses that shape the way we view society and our place in it. Those lenses are crafted from our experiences growing up, such as whether someone had a two-parent or one-parent household, the economic stability and socioeconomic factors that contribute to our view of the world.
“Embedded in your profile are a set of experiences that have shaped you to this point,” Kelly said during his lecture.
Kelly’s desire is that students will take away from the lecture a new understand of social roles, especially in athletics and the importance of degree attainment. He hopes that students resonate with something about him even if they do not share race or gender—rather than looking through clear glass they instead see a mirror.
Photo by Emily Miller