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Though Dr. Terrell L. Strayhorn considered a career in medicine among many others as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, some of his childhood experiences foreshadowed his eventual career path to The Ohio State University, where he is an associate professor in the School of Educational Policy and Leadership.


There was once a Terrell Strayhorn who was 10 who would rather stay inside and write than go outside and play with friends, or who would rather pretend to be teaching to imaginary friends in his bedroom than go play football,” Strayhorn says. “So in a way, this academic life fit very well with my own personal interests and the way I like to have fun.”


A prolific writer, award-winning researcher and a tenured professor by 30, Strayhorn has authored or edited in excess of 30 journal articles, books and book chapters, including The Evolving Challenges Of Black College Students: New Insights For Practice And Research.


A $500,000 NSF CAREER Award Strayhorn received in 2008 is supporting his research project titled, “Investigating the Critical Junctures: Strategies that Broaden Minority Participation in STEM Fields.” All in all, this project fits in squarely with the bulk of Strayhorn’s research, dedicated to identifying and removing retention and persistence roadblocks for minority college students.


For instance, a recent study Strayhorn conducted based on interviews with Black and Latino male engineering students identified three main roadblocks to their success, including the “Invisible Man” syndrome — the feeling of isolation caused by being the only minority in class exacerbated by neglect from professors — the “lack of same-race peers and faculty upon whom students could depend for support,” and “difficulty applying theory and curriculum to practice, as well as few opportunities to do so in introductory engineering courses.”


Colleagues like Dr. Marybeth Gasman, associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, applaud both the volume and impact of Strayhorn’s work.


Terrell’s research has a significant impact because it focuses on young Black men, is policy-driven, and is highly rigorous in methodological approach. … There are some young scholars who just want to put their name on everything, but Terrell is very different from that,” says Gasman. “He’s a role model for young people, and what they need to see is that yes, quantity is good, but having the quality is the most important thing, and that’s why Terrell is being recognized and that’s why he has a national voice.”


Dr. Robert Palmer, assistant professor of student affairs administration at Binghamton University, describes Strayhorn as dedicated and passionate about his work, resulting in “research (that) is very powerful, very impactful.”


Palmer also says Strayhorn has served as an excellent mentor, boosting Palmer’s career by eagerly collaborating with him on a number of projects.


Often in the academy, it’s been my experience that African-Americans, or minorities in general, seem less willing to help one another out for some reason” and Strayhorn “has been the exception,” Palmer says. “Oftentimes, someone on his level can be arrogant. He’s not that way. He’s very approachable.”


Strayhorn says his research is autobiographical in a way, as much of it focuses on the education experiences of minorities that are often juxtaposed to his own, both positive and negative. He says various teachers, peers and others he encountered on his education journey “in some way either enabled or intentionally or unintentionally inhibited or attempted to inhibit my success.”


Strayhorn says one of the questions driving his research is “to what extent was my experience typical of other students of color, other African-American males who might have the ability and the aptitude to achieve but maybe encountered direct resistance to their success or just could not access resources and support to be successful?”


Strayhorn says he was fortunate to have grown up in a White neighborhood with parents who knew how to access resources and support in the school. However, “I realize that is not the situation of all Black students, and those chances are significantly reduced” if “mom and dad’s level of education is not high, if their socioeconomic status is lower, if they’re the first generation in college — it’s those experiences as well as the voices of people whom I’ve met that keep me motivated to do this work.”


Title: Associate professor, School of Educational Policy and Leadership; Senior research associate, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, The Ohio State University


Education: Ph.D.: Higher Education, Virginia Tech;


M.Ed.: Educational Policy Studies, University of Virginia;

B.A.: Music and Religious Studies, University of Virginia

Age: 32


Career Mentors: Don Creamer (Virginia Tech), Marybeth Gasman (University of Pennsylvania), Laura Perna (Penn), and Bill Tierney (University of Southern California)


Advice for New Faculty Members: If you engage topics that you have an opinion about, something you want to say, I think that’s the first critical ingredient to being able to have a successful academic career.

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