Zounlome 2021

Black university students encounter several obstacles, such as low levels of institutional support, stereotypes about their capabilities, and microaggressions, during their academic years. Past studies have used encouragement interventions (e.g., motivating someone to overcome an obstacle) to improve Black students’ academic and mental health outcomes. However, the encouragement Black students received in past studies typically used standardized messages for all participants1 and did not specifically address how they could persist through their academic concerns based on their unique cultural context. I conducted a Black Encouragement Intervention in which Black university students read and wrote encouragement letters from/to other Black students with the same race-and-gender identities.

Key Findings

  • After engaging with the intervention, Black university students reported increased levels of self-esteem and academic self-efficacy, as well as decreased levels of racialized stress.
  • The encouragement intervention led to a larger reduction of psychological distress and depression among participants with lower levels of positive views about Black individuals.
  • The encouragement intervention resulted in an increase in satisfaction with one’s gender identity for men but not women.
  • In sum, this study demonstrates some preliminary evidence for the potential for culturally targeted intervention to Black students’ mental health and academic progress.