Mentoring African American Undergraduate Researchers

Abdul Karim Bangura, Ph.D.

April 18, 2012


What can you say about a man who has earned five Ph.D.'s—in Linguistics, Political Science, Economics, Computer Science, and Mathematics? About a man who speaks a dozen African languages and six European ones, and is still studying others: Hebrew, Arabic, and Hieroglyphics? Who has written, edited, or contributed to more than 65 books and 550 articles? What can you say?

As amazing as Abdul Karim Bangura's scholarly record is, his track record with undergraduate researchers is even more amazing. For years, his undergraduate students' essays have been the most published in the faculty-refereed journal of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR)—superseding the record at Yale, Harvard, and MIT. Likewise, his graduate students' essays have been the most published in scholarly books and journals, winning the most "Best Graduate Student Paper Awards." He launched his undergraduate research initiative at Bowie State University, where he founded and directed The Center for Success; continued it at American University, where he was the faculty advisor for the American University Undergraduate Research Association; and expanded his work at Howard, where he has coordinated the NCUR initiative. He is currently a Professor of Research Methodology and Public Policy in Howard's Department of Political Science, Howard's NCUR coordinator, and a researcher-in-residence at American University's Center for Global Peace in the School of International Service. Among his many publications are The Limitations of Survey Research Methods in Assessing the Problem of Minority Student Retention in Higher Education as well as a book entitled African-Centered Research Methodologies: From Ancient Times to the Present.

So what is Dr. Bangura's secret? He says, "I'm here to help students develop good research and writing skills. I don't train good students. I train scholars." Indeed he does. As Howard's November 2011 Capstone, reports, "Each year, an average of 4,000 students from approximately 400 U.S. universities and colleges participate in NCUR. Almost 3,000 abstracts are submitted each year, with about 2,600 accepted for presentation at the conference. Out of that, 340 are accepted for publication." Only 340. Yet, as a result of Dr. Bangura's mentoring, Howard students have been among that number, year after year.

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