Cultural-Institutional Values and the Coordination of Internships at HBCUs: A Framework for a Value Theory of Educational Labor

WCER Working Paper No. 2022-4

Matthew Wolfgram

December 2022, 21 pp.

ABSTRACT: The paper introduces the history and politics of value formation at historically Black colleges/universities (HBCUs) and focuses on how cultural-institutional values associated with Black and minority servingness—such as Black empowerment, ethics of care, and community service—impact the work of educators to coordinate internship opportunities for students. Drawing on interviews with educators at six HBCUs (n=27), this paper documents how such cultural-institutional values impact educational labor by being manifested in institutional discourse, supported through provision of institutional resources, embodied through institutional practices, and measured and assessed though institutional regimes of accountability. Educators work to expand students’ access to the market by courting employers to establish networks for internships, and at the same time, work to promote the good reputation of the HBCU by selecting and triaging students who will represent the institution well, by socializing particular social skills, work norms, and dispositions of respectability, and by sociocultural matching of student and employer. This approach creates and expands the internship market for HBCU students; provides students with extra care, advice, and anticipatory socialization for the internship; and matches the student with an employer who may be particularly amenable to supporting the student’s development. The paper proposes a value theory of educational labor that highlights and clarifies how cultural-institutional values constitute a specific context that motivates educators’ work to serve their students in particular culturally informed ways.

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keywords: HBCUs, cultural-institutional values, college internships