Story+ Project

HBCU Counterstories: Going Public with the Experiences of Adult Students


Story+ 2020 | HBCU Counterstories: The Experiences of Adult Students

HBCU Counterstories is a multiyear collaborative project documenting the lived experiences of North Carolina Central University’s adult nontraditional students. Over 200 students have participated so far in focus groups, surveys, and interviews. During Story+, student researchers will learn interpretive methods for working with these materials, statistics, and public representations of adult students. They will also gather news and pop-culture about college to determine to what extent adult students and HBCUs are visible in the public imagination. Our team’s goal is to ethically represent the perspectives and experiences of adult students from NCCU. We will produce counterstories in a variety of creative and scholarly media with an aim to upend public perceptions of adult college students.

Team members will earn certification in human subjects research, and they will have opportunities to explore individual interest areas within the project. Student researchers are encouraged to bring their unique experiences and interdisciplinary knowledge to bear on this work.

Skills undergrad:

Essential: Personal interest in the project’s subject matter is essential. Applicants who are not adult nontraditional students should be able to explain what their connection is to this research topic. A strong interest in collaboration is essential, as is the ability to maintain meticulous records and communications while working independently.

Desirable: Any skills from these lists:

  • Analytical skills that will help the team work with narrative and statistical data (close interpretive reading, rhetorical analysis, and/or statistical analysis)
  • Production abilities that will help the team design the public faces of the study (audio editing, visual design, expressive arts of any kind, writing, performing, and/or presenting)
Project Sponsor(s): 

Collie Fulford, Associate Professor, English Composition and Rhetoric, North Carolina Central University

Stefanie Frigo, Associate Professor, Writing and Linguistics; Coordinator of B.A Interdisciplinary Studies,  North Carolina Central University


Project Manager: Charity Philips (NCCU)

Tessa Delgo, Adrienne Long (NCCU), Catherine Winfree (NCCU)


The HBCU Counterstories team learned about popular media research strategies, then compiled eighty examples of entertainment, news, university public relations, and social media about adult students and/or about HBCUs, noting the scarcity of examples that cover adult students at HBCUs. Team members became certified in human subjects research before handling confidential materials from research participants. They compared audio recordings to interviews transcripts, then corrected and formatted more than twenty transcripts from student interviews and focus groups. They learned different methods of qualitative data analysis including poetic inquiry and thematic coding. Researchers highlighted their analysis of three participants during the Story+ symposium in order to craft counterstories about adult HBCU students. Their stories showcase the heterogeneity and tenacity of this group of students who are often underrepresented in media about the college experience.


  • Education