Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chair; Leslie Boozer, EdD, JD, Member; Rhonda Harley, PhD, Member


Gender Integration, military, Navy, Naval Academy, documentary, USNA, Class of 1980, Naval Academy Culture and traditions, art as knowledge, lived experience, Eisner


On July 6, 1976 the United States Naval Academy (USNA) admitted its first-ever gender-integrated class. I was a member of that class, along with 81 female classmates who entered USNA with the class of 1980 (USNA ‘80). Those classmates were pioneers, though few of them realized at the time just how long and how hard their journey would be. The numerous challenges faced by USNA ‘80 on their journey through the Academy have been well documented (Gelfand, 2008). But there has been far less research on the lived experience of that pioneering class. This study fills a gap between historical and academic accounts of the gender integration at USNA and the felt experience of both the men and women of USNA ‘80 who lived through that integration process. One common theme that emerged was the lack of support my female classmates felt from some of their male peers. This finding led to an exploration of how the culture and traditions at USNA nurtured and reinforced the prejudice displayed by those male classmates. This study also looked the coping strategies employed to navigate the difficulties of gender integration and how being part of that integration process impacted the lives of USNA ‘80 long after graduation. A key feature of this study is my use of an artform (in this case documentary filmmaking) to both conduct and present my research. Following Eisner’s (2008) argument that art can be considered a form of knowledge, I first conducted extensive, on-camera interviews with members of USNA ’80. Those interviews were then examined using narrative and thematic analysis and the resulting findings are presented in the form of a video documentary. The goal of this singular documentary parallels the goal of this study: to create a visceral, in-depth description of the gender integration process at USNA from the perspective of the first class to live through it.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies