Kenneth White, Jr.

Kenneth White Jr. presents researchAfter graduating in 1995 with a BA in Mathematics from Wayne State University, Kenneth White, Jr. knew that he wanted to continue his education, with the ultimate goal of obtaining a PhD. He had heard that only about 1% of the population has a PhD, and he added, “Being a black male, I wanted a PhD to be a mentor in terms of educational attainment.” Kenneth’s journey to graduate school, however, ended up taking a non-traditional route. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Kenneth was employed for a few years, lost his job, and took a few post-baccalaureate classes at Wayne State before moving to Nashville. There, while working during the day, he began evening classes for a Master of Accountancy from Belmont University. With his master’s degree in hand, Kenneth worked for a couple of years before deciding that the time was right for him to start his PhD.

With the decision to continue his academic studies made, Kenneth had to choose a school: “I selected Ohio State because of the national reputation and also because its Family Resource Management program most closely aligned with my personal interests in terms of family financial wellness.” At Ohio State, Kenneth found mentorship through the Todd A. Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male as a 2013-2014 cohort Bell Fellow. The programs and staff at the Bell Center put Kenneth in touch with other graduate students who were toiling alongside him, thus providing him with a strong support system: “In the past, I could have definitely benefited from mentoring that I didn't necessarily have, seek out or take advantage of. I found that at the BNRC.”

Now in his final year of school, Kenneth has been awarded the College of Education and Human Ecology Dissertation Year Fellowship, which provides him with tuition, insurance, and a stipend, similar to what a Graduate Teaching Associate would receive, with one big difference: “Unlike a GTA, I won’t have any other duties such as teaching; the whole year will be spent on writing – and finishing – my dissertation.” And as the writing of his dissertation progresses, Kenneth knows he can again turn to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for additional help from ODI’s Dissertation Boot Camp and Preparing for the Professoriate Retreat.

Kenneth plans on defending his dissertation proposal at the end of Spring Semester 2015 and graduating in May 2016 with a PhD in Consumer Sciences. “After graduation, I’d really like to get a tenure track position at a mid-sized school where I can work at increasing the number of first-generation students. I’d also enjoy training diverse students to become financial planners,” he stated. “The financial planning industry is dominated by white males, and I would like to help diversify the profession. One step is to diversify the front of the classroom,” he stated.

And Kenneth’s advice to those students whose road to a PhD takes a meandering course? “As a non-traditional student, we have a lot of experience, but academia is a different beast. Realize that you are now the novice, and don't be afraid to ask questions and admit that you don't know something,” he said. Sound advice that would work for any student.

The mission of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male is to examine and address critical issues in society that impact the quality of life for African American males. The Bell Fellows program was established for graduate students who were interested in the work of the BNRC as well as academic careers as professors or postdoctoral researchers.