The Academy’s New Cast — Bravo! Encore Please!
America’s preoccupation with the “right look” has prompted myriad entertainers to sculpt their bodies as they seek a measure of success. Body sculpting, both a mental and physical exercise, tends to yield optimal physical results to those individuals who demonstrate the requisite mental attitude and discipline to transform an idea (the thought of physical fitness) to an ideal (the actual attainment of physical fitness). While we can easily identify exceptions — including highly recognizable African American celebrities who have succeeded in their chosen field of endeavor without fitting a certain mold and having a certain look — invariably, these individuals were exceptional at their craft, before becoming exceptions in their field.
Black Issues In Higher Education’s profile “The Academy’s New Cast” (Jan. 3, 2002) lends credence to the premise that young African Americans who sculpt their minds can find unlimited opportunities in academia. Using the vernacular of the hip-hop generation, each of the profiled scholars was “all that” in physical appearance; however, a perusal of their curricula vitae revealed much more than pretty faces. By virtue of academic and professional achievements, each scholar’s attention to mind sculpting was undeniably apparent. These young academics exemplified a common characteristic: an ability to transform their ideas into ideals. Six key factors — aptitude, attitude, altitude, and discipline, determination, and dedication — represent common strands as these scholars took the road less traveled.
How do we sow and nurture these six principles? We must consciously and purposely aid young African American students with identifying clear goals. We must provide guidance and direction, as our students establish road maps — possibly long, winding, and arduous — and then offer much needed support, encouragement and information, as they move from point A to point Z. We must make good on our promise to “be there” as mentors for those who come after us.
We must begin early to engage promising young African American scholars in activities that help them maximize aptitude. We must both model and encourage up-and-coming African American students to adopt a “can do” attitude. We must continuously remind our young students that the only limitations in life to their achievement potential should be those which they place upon themselves, and we should take painstaking care to ensure that promising Black students do not allow others to predetermine their altitude.
Once these seeds of thought are sown, through discipline, our promising young scholars can control their determination and dedication as they navigate the path from ideas to ideals, and soar to their maximum flying altitudes. Above all, we should remember that ours is a vested interest, and that the success of young African American scholars is truly community property — our success as a population cohort.
Whether sculpting the body or mind, or whether entertainer or educator, these six principles — aptitude, attitude, altitude, discipline, determination and dedication — form a synergetic bond for success and goal attainment. For example, aptitude with the wrong attitude can easily undermine, and often destroy an individual’s ability to attain a desired altitude. Similarly, discipline, at minimum, is a co-requisite to sustaining determination and dedication in goal attainment.
With discipline, dedication and determination, young African American scholars who are preparing for takeoff can sculpt their minds, and in turn, use aptitude, alongside a positive attitude, to attain a desired altitude. Established African American scholars who are already airborne can descend to not only assist the flight patterns of these scholars (on their way up), but also help sustain them, by providing the wind beneath their wings. May we continue soaring.
— Dr. Ruby Evans is an associate professor of educational research at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Fla.
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