Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Joi A. Spencer, PhD - Co-Chair; Lea A. Hubbard, PhD - Co-Chair; Christopher B. Newman, PhD Member


African American Women, Trauma, Education, Persisitence


African American women are graduating from college at rates higher than their Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, Native American and even their African American male peers. This level of college persistence and success is occurring amid the challenges they face and share with their peers of the same schools, neighborhoods and society. Similar to many of their peers, these young women experience under-resourced schools and limited college preparation. In addition, they have unique school challenges including experiences with negative stereotypes and harsh discipline policies. African American women also face societal challenges through experiences with trauma, foster care and disproportionate early parenting, to name a few. Nevertheless, they persist. To date, the literature is lacking in studies that represent successful African American women who have encountered challenges yet achieve their educational goals.

Through a reflective case analysis, this study investigates how the high school experiences of African American women who have experienced trauma and persisted toward college and eventual baccalaureate attainment. I sought to investigate, specifically, how the high school experiences of African American young women shape and support their transition to college and ultimately degree success. Through the use of an initial questionnaire administered to twenty-four respondents, followed by phenomenological interviews with nine of these women, I was able to ascertain a wealth of information highlighting the voices of these thriving women. Using Critical Race Theory, I explore the assets these women bring and center their voice in sharing how they pursue success for themselves, their families and their communities.

The study’s findings indicate that while there were a number of traumatic events that these African American women experienced, supportive persons and services in educational settings were advantageous for their academic and social development. The significance of the study lies in its potential to inform educators, counselors and other supportive stakeholders of ways to improve the rate of baccalaureate attainment among African American young women and their similarly situated peers.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies