Emmanuel Blankson ’15 Studies the Black Immigrant Experience

Springtime on the Dartmouth campus marks the annual celebration of undergraduate research, scholarship, and creativity. Undergraduates work closely with faculty on projects relevant to the students’ chosen fields, challenge their abilities, and contribute to the scholarly enterprise. The projects are designed to encourage critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, self-confidence, and intellectual independence.

Dartmouth Now highlights the work of six undergraduate researchers in a weeklong series.

Research is the highest priority for Emmanuel BIankson ’15, who came to Dartmouth because of the opportunities to pursue scholarly investigation.

“My research project is about the identity construction of second-generation black immigrants in college, namely Dartmouth,” says Emmanuel Blankson ’15, photographed with his adviser, Assistant Professor of Sociology Janice McCabe. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

“I think research is important because it allows us to ask questions that matter to us,” he says. “The best part about it is being able to learn from the process and sometimes answer the questions we propose.”

Blankson was born in Ghana and moved to the Bronx when he was 10, “so I claim both as my home,” he says. His background has informed his research.

“I am really interested in race and ethnicity, black immigrant experiences, and education,” he says. “My research project is about the identity construction of second-generation black immigrants in college, namely Dartmouth. I read a few articles that described the pathways of assimilation and was fascinated and amazed that sociologists were studying something so personal to me.”

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Blankson says the children of black immigrants present an interesting population for sociologists to study. “They are born into an American system that sees them as black, yet they live in the homes of immigrant parents who stress their national origins.

“Do they identify with their ethnic origins, become more ‘American,’ or do they identify with both?” he asks. “My research is to try to understand how college, specifically Dartmouth, plays into this idea of identity construction.

“Professor Janice McCabe, my adviser, has been a huge source of support for the entirety of my research. She has challenged me to think critically about the topic and consider new avenues,” says Blankson.

“It was neat to see Emmanuel take this from the idea for a research topic last spring to the ambitious project that he completed this year. His interviews of 40 Dartmouth students—second-generation black immigrant youths—provide important insights into the identity construction of both racial and ethnic identities during the college years,” says McCabe, an assistant professor of sociology.

Blankson says research exemplifies experiential learning. “It allows individuals to be more hands-on with the topic of interest than in the classroom,” he says. “I have personally grown a lot from doing my research.”

After graduation, he intends to take a gap year and volunteer tutor in New York and then apply to graduate school, where he plans to study sociology and continue doing research on children of black immigrants. “My hope is to eventually earn my PhD and become a professor,” he says.