Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Recruiting Males to Higher Education Through A Strength Based-Positive Masculinity Perspective Part I

The late Mr. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” What a powerful deposition? Being a higher education professional myself, I am biased towards such a statement. I do agree with Mr. Mandela on the power and importance of education. Therefore, continuing education through higher education is important for citizens of the United States. In fact, Margaret Spelling who served as the United States Secretary of Education (2005-2009) once said, “Higher education is confronting challenges, like the economy is, about the need for a higher number of more adequately trained, more highly educated citizenry.”
Such a statement validates the importance that education, especially higher education, has in society. Ultimately, if higher education were not important, then higher education would not have began with Harvard University in 1636 and multiplied into 4,495 degree-granting institutions by 2010 (United States Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, 2012).
In the beginning months of the blog site for ACPA Standing Committee for Men and Masculinities I submitted a blog titled Mentoring College Men to Close the Gender Gap: An Interdepartmental Approach for A Small Regional Campus, which can be found at It is clear through scholarship and research that there continues to be a definite gender gap in regards to college enrollment, academic performance, and college graduation between women and men.
My primary responsibility for Western Kentucky University’s Glasgow Campus is to recruit students. This has put me on the frontline of interacting with prospective students. My experience bolsters research and publications that explore the gender gap that exists in academics. While meeting and having conversations with prospective students, female students tend to be more interested in pursuing higher education (specifically a four-year degree).
My involvement in the ACPA Standing Committee for Men and Masculinities has developed an interest to do more to excite men of rural Kentucky to attend an institution for higher education. The obstacles that males in rural Kentucky face are plentiful. Such obstacles include socio-economic status, lack of resources, role models, culture, gender roles, home life, peer influence, etc.
Ultimately, higher education is important and continues to be important in society. While I am not under the belief that every male in the United States must enroll at an institution of higher education, I do believe that males should be enrolling in equal amounts as females. So, this begs the question: How can one best recruit men to higher education?
One way of bettering recruiting efforts towards men (specifically from rural areas) is through a positive psychology/positive masculinity model (PPPM) as a strength- based approach. People are familiar with the maladaptive aspects of males such as violence, competition, and aggression (Englar-Carlson and Kiselica, 2013, p. 402).  However, there are many redeeming qualities that males exhibit that are positive, healthy, and admirable forms of masculinity.
“Positive masculinity is about changing the dialogue to what men can strive for that transcends the sexist socialization they have experienced. Many men remain confused about who they are or who they should become in terms of gender roles. Therefore, positive-healthy masculinity can be a vehicle to mediate the essentialist and destructive stereotypes that cause much unnecessary suffering for men, women, and children,” (Englar-Carlson and Kiselica, 2013, p. 401). 
Essentially, the PPPM approach can be utilized in recruitment efforts by incorporating male strengths into dialogue about higher education. With less male students enrolling to college (specifically males from rural areas), I see the PPPM approach as a means to get behind the masculine stereotypes to show prospective males students the opportunities that can be had through higher education by expounding upon strengths.
This approach can provide an opportunity to challenge men who may lack purpose or direction in life (Englar-Carlson and Kiselica, 2013, p. 403).  Englar-Carlson and Kiselica (2013) suggests that using this approach consists of affirming and building upon male strengths in the following ways (p. 404-405):
1. Male ways of relating.  Recognize that boys and men, especially traditional males, tend to form fiiendships by engaging in activities that have a high action orientation, such as playing a game of basketball or working on a project together.

2. Generative fatherhood.  This refers to the way adult men care for the next generation by responding in a consistent way to the needs of children over time. For example, loving fathers stimulate the physical development of their children through rigorous play, promote the autonomy and socialized behavior of their children through the teaching of values and rules and the application of consistent authoritative discipline, and foster their children's cognitive development through various forms of intellectual stimulation. Older men, especially when they are in the role of grandfather, express their love by offering their wisdom and support to younger generations.

3. Male ways of caring.  Many men are socialized to protect their loved ones, to fix things around the house, and to offer solutions to others when they are faced with a problem.

4. Male self-reliance.  Western male socialization often teaches boys and men to use their own resources to solve problems and handle difficult situations. Psychologically healthy men enhance the expectation to be self-reliant with a consideration of the advice and assistance of others to address life's challenges.

5. The worker-provider tradition.  Being a worker and a provider is often a cultural expectation and a source of pride and fulfillment for many men.

6. Male daring, courage, and risk taking.  Healthy men express their courage by taking risks without being reckless. At times, they may be called upon to face peril for the sake of completing a task or protecting a loved one.

7. The group orientation of men.  Many men, across cultural groups, have learned to socialize and work in groups, such as athletic teams, fraternities, and military units.

8. Male humanitarian service organizations.  Throughout the history of the United States, numerous humanitarian organizations began as organizations of men dedicated to serving others, such as the Loyal Order of the Moose and the Lions Club International. Counselors should honor their male clients who participate in such organizations and help other male clients who are seeking positive companionship in their lives to explore and join male humanitarian groups.

9. Male humor.  Men tend to use humor as a way to diffuse tension, express affection, and find escape from their worries.

10. Male heroism.  Men look for and learn from their heroes, who represent a broad spectrum, from some of the great figures in history, to athletic stars, to everyday decent men.

Of course, this counseling approach is just conceptual in the realm of higher education and recruiting. More over, the decision of attending an institution of higher education is eclectic in regards to variables. However, I am curious to apply most (if not all) of the male strengths listed above in recruiting male students to an institution of higher education. This can be done through dialogue and engagement with prospective male students. Ultimately, the purpose of using such a model is to surpass barriers that exist due to negative aspects of masculinity to help encourage males to pursue higher education.


This is part one of a post. In the sequel to this blog post, I will share my experience in using the PPPM approach to recruiting male students to an institution of higher education.

Englar-Carlson, M. and Kiselica, M.S. (2013). Affirming the strengths in men: A positive masculinity approach to assisting male clients. Journal of Counseling & Development, 91. 399-409.

National Center for Education Statistics (2012). Fast Facts. Retrieved from

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