Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Mary Jo Abascal-Hildebrand, EdD, Director; John Browne, EdD; Lonnie L. Rowell, PhD


African Americans, dialogue, Grounded theory, higher education, life experiences, Leadership studies, minority & ethnic groups, qualitative, resilience, self-efficacy, success


Some African American students with challenging early life experiences appear vulnerable to failure in higher education. This vulnerability may be exacerbated when educators fail to recognize the relationship between the life experiences of African American students and their academic performance and college success. African American students are challenged further as they attempt to successfully adjust to collegiate environments which often do not validate them or their experiences. The primary purpose of this study is to investigate this challenge with selected African American students, to learn about how the life experiences of African American students can enhance their success in higher education. A secondary purpose is to learn how these students develop their sense of resiliency and how they think this knowledge can be utilized to promote their own greater self-efficacy and trust. Therefore, the overall purpose is to engage selected students in the development of grounded theory about how educators can learn from African American students about their perceptions of the connections between life experiences and success in higher education. This research is qualitative in nature and based on grounded theory methodology, which allows theory to emerge from subject participation: the theory that emerged was generated specifically from the input of the eight African American student interviewees. The information derived from this study may encourage a more creative approach to educational practices in the future, based in part on specific contributions from African American students. This study confirms that including students in the ongoing dialogue about schooling can be a powerful way to help them examine the ideological nature of their experiences by reflecting on them in a constructively critical manner. The major implication is if the interrelatedness between students' life experiences and academic success were understood more clearly, educators could become more open to enjoying an educational setting in which both students and teachers learn from one another--a setting that better fulfills the fundamental educational goal of preparing students to be successful

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access