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Marquis Scholar Omoniyi Adekanmbi ’04 (New Carrollton, Md.) is exploring the gap in test scores between black and white students in an independent study this semester.

Adekanmbi, a psychology major and Africana Studies minor, is completing her research under the guidance of John Shaw, associate professor and assistant head of psychology.

Shaw has published his research in numerous publications, including articles in five different academic journals and a book chapter in the past two years. He has mentored Lafayette students who have presented their undergraduate research in academic journals and at conferences. A former criminal defense attorney, Shaw has handled several thousand criminal cases and over 100 jury trials, including numerous serious felonies such as rape and murder.

“Dr. Shaw has been very helpful,” says Adekanmbi. “He has offered some great insight into my understanding of problems in minority education, and has helpful suggestions on where to go with this research in the future.” She hopes to make a career of studying the subject of academic disparity between races and the field of black psychology.

Adekanmbi says she is exploring her subject from two angles. One is oppositional culture theory, which suggests that black culture, as a result of slavery, resists the ideas of the dominant culture. The other is academic disidentification, when students do not consider schoolwork a reflection of self and therefore do not care about scholastic excellence.

“Some students see academics as being a part of white culture,” she says. “They may feel that there will be fewer returns, as well, as a result of prejudice.”

“I chose this study because it was very close to home for me,” Adekanmbi explains. “As an African American student, I understand how my peers can become frustrated with the prejudice and stereotyping that exists within academics in our society and stop caring about their academic success. However, I realize that giving up is not the answer.

“My main focus with this study is to determine the problem and conceive of interventions that can help. I hope to continue the topic in my honors thesis.”

Much of what Adekanmbi is working on stems from her Educational Psychology class, which helped her to understand some aspects of the problem.

“I definitely feel that Lafayette is a wonderful environment for this project and for academics in general,” says Adekanmbi. “Coming here gave me the opportunity to work closely with professors and build relationships that could not have happened at a larger school.”

Vice president of NIA, a women’s organization that celebrates ethnicity, gender, and sisterhood, Adekanmbi is president of the CHANCE living floor, a member of Association of Black Collegians, a psychology lab assistant, and a student representative. She has been an English as a Second Language volunteer, secretary of Latin American and Caribbean Students Association, and a member of the Dining Committee.

Categorized in: Academic News