Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Colette Cann

Second Advisor

Darrick Smith

Third Advisor

Susan Katz


Black collegians who attend historically white institutions continue to struggle with racism, microaggressions, feelings of alienation, minimal or improper advising, and an undue pressure to prove themselves (Bonner, 2010; Feagin & Sikes, 1995; Strayhorn, 2010). These barriers to success result in part due to a lack of support from the colleges and universities that they attend (Allen, 1992; Parker, Puig, Johnson & Anthony, Jr., 2016). With institutional benefits designed to benefit white students over students of color, Black students must find their own alternatives for collaboration and to provide support for their peers.

Many Black spaces can be defined as third spaces (Bhabha, 1994), where Black people go to find community, share information, and get advice. Using a concept I developed called the collegiate Black space, this dissertation argues that Black college students who attend historically white institutions have also turned digital spaces into Black spaces—spaces where resources are shared, counter-knowledge is produced, and activism is supported. The purpose of this qualitative research study is to use in-depth interviews to explore Black students’ use of digital spaces help their peer support efforts to organize and find community at historically white institutions. A better understanding of how Black students use third spaces to navigate the academy will help address the minimal body of research that looks at student uses of digital counter-spaces as a form of resistance against institutional oppression. This dissertation draws upon three theoretical frameworks—Black Critical Theory (BlackCrit) in education, Social Identity Theory (SIT), and Black Identity Theory (BIT)—to explore the lived experiences of Black college students at historically white colleges and universities.

A focus group and individual interviews were conducted with a group of six Black students at a Tier 1 school in California who are building a digital platform that will allow peer connections, the sharing of resources and information, and organizing of activism efforts. A thematic data analysis revealed four main themes: 1) what it is like to be an academic while Black, 2) the challenges of Black collegians dealing with the inequalities of dual pandemics, 3) institutional oppression and Black student self-reliance as a form of resistance, and 4) how Black student fugitivity has gone digital. The findings of this dissertation affirm the need for a greater understanding of how peer spaces shape a Black student’s experience while in college, and the implications of my research study call for authentic institutional support of autonomous Black student spaces.