Date of Graduation

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

College/School

School of Education

Department/Program

International and Multicultural Education

First Advisor

Shabnam Koirala-Azad

Second Advisor

Emma Fuentes

Third Advisor

Uma Jayakumar

Abstract

Currently, both scholarly literature and educational practice are lacking depth and scope about the lived experience of African American (AA) female students, and, as a result, they lack effectiveness for this population of students. In particular, they do not address the varying ways AA female students adjust to the university during their first year, the most critical year for student retention and persistence in the college experience (Pike & Kuh, 2005), nor do they recognize how intersectionalities of identities in AA women are salient to successes and challenges at PWIs. This study addresses this gap in the research by not only highlighting the challenges AA women face, but also by capturing their stories of leveraging resources and social interactions, academic attainment, and familial relationships as they navigate the normative terrains of predominantly White institutions. Using the theoretical frameworks of Black Feminist Thought and Community Cultural Wealth, the study was situated in the foundation laid by Christa Porter (2013) in her model on the development of Black undergraduate women. Utilizing narrative inquiry, it captured the experiences of 10 participants from a large, public university in the Western region of the United States through a reflection essay prompt, semi-structured interviews using a set of individualized questions directly related to participants’ reflection essays, and focus groups. All of the women who participated cited that some family member, whether parental or extended, assisted them during their journey to college and through the first year. In addition, the majority of the study’s participants (7 out of 10) were not eligible to seek out the support originally mandated for oppressed communities, since these programs and services require that students be first generation and low income. The assumption made by predominantly White institutions that AA students who come from more affluent homes with college graduate parents do not need the same types of support as their first-generation, low-income peers is false and indicative of a deficit-thinking framework. This study provided valid examples of both first-generation and non-first generation students who needed the same resources as they progressed through their first year in college.

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