Black Campus Life

The Worlds Black Students Make at a Historically White Institution

By Antar A. Tichavakunda

Subjects: Higher Education, African American Studies, Black Studies, Education, Educational Research
Series: SUNY Press Open Access, SUNY series, Critical Race Studies in Education
Hardcover : 9781438485911, 278 pages, December 2021
Paperback : 9781438485904, 278 pages, July 2022

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Learning About Campus Life from Black Engineering Majors

2. Understanding the Past and Present of West Side University

The Black Community

3. The Time and Space to Engage in the Black Community

4. Johnson's Story

The Black Engineering Community

5. Examining NSBE: How Black Engineers Do It for the Culture

6. Jasmine's Story

The Engineering School Community

7. Organizational Involvement: Diversity Dilution and Antiblackness

8. Informal Relationships: The (Im)Possibility of Peer Collaboration

9. Nina's Story

The Mainstream Wsu Community

10. Negotiating Racism: Is Mainstream Campus Life for White Students?

11. Martin's Story

12. Sociology and the Blues of Campus Life


Ethnography of Black engineering majors navigating campus life at a historically White university.


An in-depth ethnography of Black engineering students at a historically White institution, Black Campus Life examines the intersection of two crises, up close: the limited number of college graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and the state of race relations in higher education. Antar Tichavakunda takes readers across campus, from study groups to parties and beyond as these students work hard, have fun, skip class, fundraise, and, at times, find themselves in tense racialized encounters. By consistently centering their perspectives and demonstrating how different campus communities, or social worlds, shape their experiences, Tichavakunda challenges assumptions about not only Black STEM majors but also Black students and the “racial climate” on college campuses more generally. Most fundamentally, Black Campus Life argues that Black collegians are more than the racism they endure. By studying and appreciating the everyday richness and complexity of their experiences, we all—faculty, administrators, parents, policymakers, and the broader public—might learn how to better support them.

This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries. Learn more at the TOME website, available at:, and access the book online through the SUNY Open Access Repository at

Antar A. Tichavakunda is Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Cincinnati.


"…Tichavakunda does an excellent job with taking the reader deep into these different social worlds and helping us to understand the associated realities embodied in these worlds and for these students. The recommendations that are offered in this book aid in making the case for why higher education must devote more attention to the needs and specificity of Black students." — Science Education

"Without question, this book appeals to higher education administrators, staff, faculty, and people doing diversity, equity, and inclusion work. In the classroom, Black Campus Life is equally valuable … This book has the opportunity to fulfill what I believe to be among the author's primary goals: to add depth and breadth to narratives about Black student experiences on historically white campuses and to extend readers' understandings of Blackness and Black life beyond that of a plight against racism." — Deborwah Faulk, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity

"Tichavakunda effortlessly interweaves theory and empirical research, using interviews, archival documents, and institutional data to paint a rich picture of student life. Black students are depicted multidimensionally, as whole persons, not just the sum of their identities." — Crystal Renée Chambers, author of Law and Social Justice in Higher Education