NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL VOLUME 26, NUMBER 3, 2009-2010 HAVING THEIR SAY: BLACK WOMEN’S LIVED EXPERIENCES IN PREDOMINANTLY WHITE DOCTORAL PROGRAMS OF EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP Mack T. Hines III Sam Houston State University ABSTRACTThis phenomenological study investigated six African American women’s livedexperiences in predominantly White doctoral programs of educational leadership. Usinga phenomenological research design, I interviewed the African American womenregarding their lived experiences as doctoral students in White doctoral programs ofeducational leadership. I used Giorgi’s (1985) methods of phenomenological analysis toanalyze the outcomes from the interviews. The findings showed that being an African American woman in apredominantly White doctoral program of educational leadership consists of dealingwith the White experience and thriving on the Black experience. Dealing with the whiteexperience consisted of support and assistance from white professors, discriminationfrom white professors, the white privilege/entitlement attitude of white students, andproving white students wrong through success and achievement. thriving on the blackexperience was defined by mentoring from black professors and bonding with blackstudents. Based on these findings, one implication is for university policy makers todevelop strategies to reduce African American women’s feelings of dealing with Whitefaculty and students. The most prominent implication is for African American women tocontinually share their feelings about matriculating predominantly White doctoralprograms of educational leadership. These testimonies could be used to address anymarginalized aspects of African American women’s doctoral experiences in theseprograms. Equally significant, more African American women may be able to thrive oninstead of deal with their interactions with Caucasian American faculty and doctoralstudents. Introduction 90
91 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________S ince the granting of the first Ph.D degree in 1861, the doctoral degree has remained the prized possession of American higher education (Gonzalez, Firuerora, Marin, & Moreno, 2001).However, a wide gap exists between the number of African Americanand Caucasian American doctoral degree holders (Perry, 1998). Inaddition, a history of limited representation reflects the enrollment ofAfrican American doctoral students, especially female students. African American women are underrepresented in doctoralprograms. Specifically, African American women constitute only1.7% of the doctoral students and recipients in this country(Manigault, 1999). In spite of these statistics, more African Americanwomen are achieving their doctorate degrees. Consequently, a fewstudies have investigated their doctoral program experiences (hooks,1989, 1990, 1994; Moses, 1989; Noble, 1993). Research has alsofocused on African American women’s doctoral experiences inpredominantly White universities (Alfred, 2001; Ellis, 2001;Manigault, 1999). However, the latter investigations are inconclusivebecause of mainly providing only statistical interpretations of theirdoctoral experiences. Because of the traditional marginalization ofAfrican American female experiences in higher education, researchneeds to provide a personal perspective of these women’s experiencesin graduate education. Drawing upon this notion, thisphenomenological study explores African American women’s livedexperiences in predominantly White doctoral programs of educationalleadership. The research question for this study was:1. What are African American women’s lived experiences in predominantly White doctoral programs of educational leadership?Significance of Study
Mack T. Hines III 92 The significance of this research is threefold. First, AfricanAmerican women are twice as likely to enroll in doctoral programs ofeducational leadership as doctoral programs from other disciplines(Barnett, 2003). Like most doctoral programs, many of the educationalleadership programs are housed in predominantly White colleges anduniversities. Yet, no research has determined if these program’sfaculty members discuss the program experiences of AfricanAmerican women. Therefore, this research provides university facultywith unique insight into their lived experiences in their doctoralprograms of educational leadership. Similarly, as more African American women enterpredominantly White doctoral programs of educational leadership,they can use this and similar research as baseline data for completingtheir course of study. In particular, they can develop ways to respondto potential doctoral level issues that may relate to their race andgender. Finally, this study empowers African American women toprovide a first-person perspective on their experiences inpredominantly White doctoral programs of educational leadership.Carter, Pearson, and Shavlik (1998) stated, “Historically, Blackwomen and their voices have been one of the most isolated,understudied, and demoralized segments of the academic community”(p.98). Hooks (1989) and Wilkerson (1987) argued that thismarginalization is indicative of the traditional lumping of AfricanAmerican women with African American men. As a result, researchersshortchange the richness that emanates from separate reviews of Blackwomen’s doctoral experiences. Thus, by encouraging African American women to tell theirstories, their voices become a meaningful part of the doctoralcommunities of educational leadership. Overall, the benefits of thisstudy are the potential for better integrating African American womeninto predominantly White doctoral programs of educational leadership. Theoretical Framework
93 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________ This study is grounded in the Black Feminist Theory andCritical Race Theory. The Black Feminist Theory purports that raceand gender have been used to discriminate against African Americanwomen (Hill-Collins, 1996). Crenshaw (1996) specified that AfricanAmerican women reflect the intersection of racial and genderedoppression. That is, they have been marginalized in terms of theboundaries of Black and male and White and female. As such, theyhave had to battle the racism that plagues Black men and sexism thatderails White women. The Critical Race Theory denotes that racism and Whiteprivilege/superiority are normal, pervasive aspects of society (Delgado& Stefancic, 2001). Both factors create inequitable educational andpolitical systems. Accordingly, the main implication of critical racetheory is to confront these systems of racial oppression. AfricanAmericans are urged to address these systems by acknowledgingmicro-aggressions, developing counter stories, and creating safespaces. Micro-aggressions are subtle forms of racism to disparageminorities (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001). An example of a micro-aggression is “You are not like other Blacks.” Counter stories areminority testimonies that challenge myths about African Americanculture (Howard-Hamilton, 1997). These stories specifically counterbeliefs that portray African Americans as being inferior to Whitepeople. Safe spaces are venues for expressing counter stories (Delgado& Stefancic). Examples of safe spaces are books, forums, and music.These venues reflect the strong African American tradition ofstorytelling. Through storytelling, African Americans develop theirvoices for expressing their own lived experiences. Both the Black Feminist Theory and Critical Race Theoryrelate to factors that are indicative of African American women’s livedexperiences. In due regard, they provide a conceptual framework forunderstanding African American women’s lived experiences in
Mack T. Hines III 94predominantly White doctoral programs of educational leadership.Overall, as a safe space, this research presents African Americanwomen with another venue for expressing their personal graduateeducation experiences. Literature Review In the late 1980s, Howard-Vital (1989) asked, “Why is theresuch a small amount of research that addresses Black women ingraduate school?” (p.46). In response, much research has chronicledBlack women’s overall graduate education experiences (hooks, 1989,1990, 1994; Noble, 1993) and doctoral education experiences (Alfred,2001; Clark, 1999; Ellis, 2001; Manigault, 1999). The latter researchinquiries have focused on determinants and barriers of AfricanAmerican women’s experiences in predominantly White doctoralprograms from various disciplines. First, many African American women receive internal andexternal support to complete their doctoral degree programs(Manigault, 1999; Hill, 2005). Internal factors include but are notlimited to faith, determination, resilience, and persistence. In additionto family, departmental support has also played a pivotal role inmotivating African American women to achieve their doctoraldegrees. Departmental support is developed through academicadvising, quasi-apprentice relationships, academic mentoringrelationships, and career mentoring relationships. Several researchershave denoted that African American women do not usually receivethis level of support in predominantly White doctoral programs (Ellis,2001; Essed, 1993; hooks, 1994; Landry, 2003). They furtherindicated that many African American female doctoral studentsreceive advising and mentoring from African Americans in otherdepartments or outside of the campus. Along those same lines, manyof African American women’s doctoral experiences are defined byrelationships with other African American doctoral students.
95 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________ One of the most significant barriers for African Americanfemale doctoral candidates is a lack of support from professors in theirdepartments (Essed, 1990; hooks, 1994; Moses, 1992; Phillip-Evans,1999; Willie, Grady, & Hope, 1991; King, 2004). Given the fewminority faculty members on college campuses (Trower, 2002), manyAfrican American doctoral students are forced to form mentoringrelationships with White professors. In many instances, thisrelationship has been more harmful than helpful to African Americanwomen (Grady, 1995; Williams, 2002). Evidence to this effect can beseen in the high rates of isolation among African American femaledoctoral students. Overall, if their major advisors fail to encourage oradvise them, they may become discouraged about their doctoralexperiences. Essed (1990) and St. Jean and Feagin (1998) have argued thatAfrican American women are more likely to experience racism andsexism than any other group of doctoral students. They are oftenviewed as “tokens” admitted to doctoral programs to add diversity totheir departments (Essed; St. Jean & Feagin). In addition, they arestereotyped and stigmatized by White doctoral students (Essed; St.Jean & Feagin). Empirical Literature Two significant studies have examined African Americanwomen’s in doctoral programs. Manigualt (1999) explored 86 AfricanAmerican women’s doctoral experiences in k-12 educationalleadership programs in Southeastern Atlantic states. The women, whoreceived their degrees between 1992 and 1997, attributed their successto faith in God and perseverance. They also experienced feelings ofisolation, racism, and lack of mentoring.
Mack T. Hines III 96 Ellis (1997) compared African American women’s doctoralexperiences with the doctoral experiences of Black men and Whitemen and women at a predominantly White university. The women andother students rated their satisfaction with the doctoral programs oftheir respective disciplines. The findings overwhelmingly showed thatrace was more influential of African American women’s doctoralexperiences than the other group’s experiences. Unlike the otherstudents, the African American women did not form meaningfulrelationships with White faculty. Because of significant culturaldifferences, the women struggled to with forming meaningfulrelationships with their White peers. They were also more likely toexperience racial tension with White students and faculty than Blackmale doctoral students. The commonalty of these studies is African Americanwomen’s marginalized experiences in these doctoral programs. UnlikeManigualt’s (1999) research, my study is not limited to one section ofthis country. In addition, my study examines African Americanwomen who only graduated from predominantly White doctoralprograms of educational leadership. My study extends Ellis’ (1997)research by describing these experiences on several predominantlyWhite universities. Unlike Manigault’s and Ellis’ research, my studyprovides a phenomenological analysis of the women’s experiences inpredominantly White doctoral programs. Therefore, readers willreceive an insightful description of how these women make meaningof graduate experiences in predominantly White graduate settings. MethodologyResearch Design
97 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________ A phenomenological approach was chosen to investigate thelived experiences of being an African American woman in apredominantly White doctoral program of educational leadership.Phenomenology is useful when searching for a development ofknowledge to broaden the understanding of lived experiences. In short,the aim of using phenomenology was to transform lived experiencesinto textual expression of its essence (Moustakas, 1994).Participants Using Patton’s (1990) purposive sampling procedures, Iconducted the study on four African American women with doctor ofeducation (Ed.D) degrees in educational leadership frompredominantly White Universities. To protect their identity, I assignedthem with the following pseudonyms: Linda, Leslie, Lena, and Louise.At their request, I also withheld the names of their institutions. Table 1provides a holistic overview of each participant.Table 1—Demographic Profiles of ParticipantsName Age Location Year Years in Current of Doctorate Education Position University Degree EarnedLinda 40 Maryland 2003 17 PrincipalLeslie 36 Louisiana 2004 12 Assistant ProfessorLena 39 Florida 2000 09 Educational ConsultantLouise 52 California 1998 25 SuperintendentData Collection and Interview Process
Mack T. Hines III 98 I used Van Kaam’s (1966) descriptive approach to collect datafrom the participants. Following this approach, I e-mailed the followingprotocol to the participants: Please describe what it was like to be an African American woman in a predominantly White Doctoral Program of Educational Leadership. Be sure that your response is inclusive of capture the essence of your experience in the program. In responding to each question, use words and expressions in a way that lets readers know exactly what the experience was like for you. In addition, please do not stop writing until you feel that the description truly captures the essence of your experience. After receiving the protocols from the participants, I read thedescriptions two times. During the second reading, I inserted follow-up questions into the protocols. The follow-up questions were used toclarify, expand, and enrich the participants’ interpretations of theirlived experiences. Because of the differences in participants’experiences, the follow-up questions varied for each protocol. But allof the follow-up questions were inclusive of data gathering inquiriessuch as: “What was that experience like?”; “Tell me more about that.”;“Describe your experience at this point”; “What were you feelinghere?”; “What, if any, meaning did this hold for you?” and “Can youtell me again when that happened?” Afterwards, I used a modified version of Seidman’s (2006)interview process to conduct phone interview with the participants. Ibegan each interview by reading the written protocol to theparticipants. Upon reaching the follow-up questions, I paused andposed the questions to the participants. I also allowed the teachers tointerrupt me to share any additional thoughts to clarify previouslydiscussed information. After conducting and transcribing theinterviews, I resent the protocols to the teachers. I then called andasked the women to offer any additional perspectives on thetranscribed interviews.
99 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________Data Analysis I followed Giorgi’s (1989) model to analyze the data. First, Ibracketed my assumptions about African American women’sexperiences in predominantly White programs of educationalleadership. This process would allow me to objectively analyze asubjective experience. Afterwards, I read and reread the transcripts toget a sense of the whole experience. I then divided the interview datainto natural meaning units. Natural meaning units are descriptions ofraw data that describe the actual experience. I then transformed thenatural meaning units into central themes. I then transformed thethemes into abstract discipline-driven categories. I then usedimaginative variation to identify the essential nature of the category’srelevance to the lived experience. Specifically, I asked, “What, if any,aspect of this category describes the essence of the African Americanwoman’s lived experiences in a predominantly White doctoralprogram of educational leadership?” In addition, I asked “Is everytheme of this category needed to convey the essence of the AfricanAmerican woman’s lived experiences in predominantly White doctoralprogram of educational leadership?” I discarded any theme that diddescribe the essence of the participants’ lived experiences. I then transformed the categories into redescribed statementsand then situated structure description for each participant. Thesituated structural descriptions described the actual experience foreach woman. These descriptions are comprised of the central themesof the categories. I then transformed the similar themes from eachinterview data into the essence of the lived experience of being anAfrican American woman in a predominantly White program ofeducational leadership. Essences are abstract concepts that capture theinterrelation of common categories. For example, one of the essencesof this study is “Dealing with the White Experience.” This essence ismade of the following thematic categories: Assistance from WhiteProfessors, Discrimination from White Professors, and Feeling theWhite Privilege/Entitlement Factor of White Students. Aftercompleting this step, I then developed a general structural description
Mack T. Hines III 100of being an African American woman in a predominantly WhiteDoctoral program of Educational Leadership. This description is aconsist statement that describes the interrelation of all the essences ofthe research findings.Trustworthiness Following Lincoln and Guba’s (1985) recommendations, Iused three methods to establish the trustworthiness of data. Themethods were credibility, transferability, and dependability. Iestablished credibility through peer debriefing and member checks. Iachieved transferability by presenting rich, thick descriptions of theparticipants and their lived experiences. Strauss & Corbin (1998)posited that the reviewers will use these descriptions to determineexperiences are indicative of the participants or biased researcherinterpretation. I achieved dependability by creating an audit trail ofraw data, data reduction methods, and synthesis products. Accordingto Strauss and Corbin, conformability is achieved when reviewersdetermine that the findings are reflective of participants’ experiencesinstead of biased researcher interpretation. ResultsGeneral Structural Description The phenomenon of being an African American woman in apredominantly White doctoral program of educational leadership isdefined by dealing with the White experience and thriving on theBlack experience. Dealing with the White experience consists ofexperiences with White Professors and White students. The AfricanAmerican women reported either positive or negative experiences inworking with Caucasian American professors. They reported onlyfeelings of negative experiences in dealing with White students. On the other hand, the African American women indicated thatthey only had positive experiences with Black Professors and students.
101 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________They defined these experiences in terms of mentoring. They formedmeaningful relationships with other African American students.Overall, the women indicated they experienced growth anddevelopment with White professors and students and Black professorsand students. As a result, they would relive these experiences.Essence 1: Dealing with the White Experience The essence of dealing with the White experience consists ofpositive and negative experiences with White professors. Thisexperience also consists of negative views of White students. Fourinterrelated themes reflect the essence of experiences: Support andAssistance from White Professors, Discrimination from WhiteProfessors, The White Privilege/Entitlement Attitude of WhiteStudents, and Proving White Students Wrong Through Success andAchievement. Support and Assistance from White Professors Two women indicated that they received support andassistance from White professors. The professors mostly assisted themwith matters related to academia. For example, Leslie wrote and talkedabout her White professors’ roles in developing her writing skills.“I am proud to say that I had a wealth of support in the EducationalLeadership program at ABCD University, and a few of the supporterswere White professors. For example, as an ambitious AfricanAmerican woman, I strongly believed that the dissertation processcould be accomplished within a short amount of time. However, Irealized that the dissertation is a mechanism that is used to refine theresearch and writing skills of doctoral graduates. During this process, Ilearned that I needed to develop my writing skills. Through workingwith Dr. Avian (Pseudonym-White Professor) and Dr. Kavaian(Pseudonym-White Professor), I gained a wealth of knowledge aboutdissertation writing and developed my writing skills. This experiencehas helped me to publish a few articles about my dissertation.”
Mack T. Hines III 102Similarly, Lena discussed a White professor’s role as the advisor ofher dissertation. Although the professor didn’t serve as a mentor, theprofessor continually assisted her with developing a good dissertation.“I remember when I did my dissertation proposal. I had a lot ofcorrections. My dissertation Chair (White Professor) was extremelyhelpful. She gave me all of her time because she sincerely wanted meto be successful.”Lena also wrote:“When I had questions about things such as APA style and tableformatting, she would also take time to help me. She also showed mehow to organize my chapters.” Discrimination from White Professors Linda and Louise specifically spoke about experiences ofdiscrimination with their White professors. Linda frameddiscrimination in the context of two terms: Educational Hazing andUnprofessionalism. Linda indicated that because of these experiences,she is “Still recovering after obtaining my Ed.D five years ago.”“I entered the doctoral program cognizant of the challenges andbarriers that could and would occur (rigor in curriculum andinstruction). But I was not prepared for the unprofessionalism that wasdisplayed in discriminating practices by majority of the Whiteteaching staff. The good old boy-and girl-policy of White favoritismpermeated the hallways of the institution.”When probed for further discussion, Linda explained:“Educational discrimination and hazing was prevalent in my cohort,especially in the grading of assignments that were so subjective withWhite students and so objective with Black students. One example thatI can remember very vividly is the dissertation. For White students,the dissertation process was like just write it up and you will graduate.But that was not the deal for Black students. For me, my doctoralcommittee members, mostly the White members, just kept asking forchanges in the research document. They would then keep changing
103 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________their mind. Redo this. Redo that. Retype this. Retype that. I canhonestly say that because of the White committee members, there wasuncertainty in if I would graduate, as completing the dissertationloomed over my head daily. I had to constantly remind myself of mypersonal goal and not to abandon the program.”Similarly, Louise indicated that White professors were extremelydiscriminatory towards her and other African American students.From a cohort perspective, she wrote:“It was like the White professors took pleasure in teaching Whitestudents while subtly taunting Black students. They called on Whitestudents way more than Black students. I also noticed that they wouldspend more time talking to Whites than Blacks before and after classsessions.”From a personal perspective, she stated:“I remember when I was working on my dissertation. I had acommittee of one Asian American professor, two Black professors,and two White professors. During my proposal defense, one of theWhite professors kept asking crazy questions about my paper. He alsokept trying to convince me that I was working on a useless topic.Because of his rank and tenure, no one challenged him. And then afterI defended and worked began to work on the dissertation, he wouldcall me into his office and tell me about two of other Black femaleswho failed the dissertation defense. He did this from the time Idefended my proposal until the time I defended my dissertation. Butwhen I talked with White students whose committee he was on, theysaid he was extremely helpful to them.” The White Privilege/Entitlement Attitude of White Students All of the women spoke of how their White colleaguesexpressed a sense of entitlement and privilege about the doctoralprogram. They women believed that this entitlement caused the Whitestudents to demonstrate elitist attitudes. Leslie, Linda, Louise, andLena indicated that the entitlement was a major part of the doctoral
Mack T. Hines III 104experience. For example, Lena indicated that the entitlementinfluenced the scheduling of a class. She explained:“One summer we were sitting with our professor deciding on whatnight we wanted to come to class. The African American studentslooked at each other and the professor as to say, ‘Whenever you sayclass is.’ Our White counterparts began telling the professors abouttheir vacations they had already scheduled, etc. As a result, we endedup having class on line and the same people I sat in the room with onthe first night that I thought was on board, showed out.”Leslie described an incident of experiencing White Entitlement duringa classroom discussion. She stated:“In one of the sessions of my multiculturalism class, we werediscussing race, class, and student achievement. True to form, theWhite students talked about the White children like they weresupposed to have the highest test scores in their subjects. They alsoindicated that the Black students were expected to perform poorly inschool. Two of them even had the nerve to say that the expectationsfor Black students were poor in college and graduate students.”Linda and Louise spoke about the entitlement in terms being admittedto the doctoral program.Linda indicated:“I found that my “Anglo” cohorts had a sense of entitlement about theprogram. Philosophically, they thought that the professors were thereto serve them. I remember several conversations where I expressed theimportance of insuring that I/we exceeded the professor’s expectationsand was told by the White students ‘Without us, they wouldn’t have ajob. So they needed to exceed our expectations.’”Along those same lines, Louise wrote:“Most of the White students that I came into contact with were straightup elitist. They also spoke about how class discussions should focuson what they were experiencing. They would turn around and shutdown when the topic was on issues related to Black students. They
105 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________never could really see the true meaning of multiculturalism, and givelittle respect to the diversity that was in our cohort.” Proving White Privilege Wrong Through Success The women reported that an underlying premise of the Whiteprivilege was the questioning of African American students’admittance into the program. As a result, the women were driven toprove that they belonged in the doctoral program. They specificallyspoke of the need to establish their belongingness through success andachievement.Leslie and Linda focused on establishing their belongingness throughacademic achievement. Leslie stated:“From the time I entered the program until the time I graduated fromthe program, I just felt that I needed to show White students that Ibelonged here. I think that this motivation came from them alwaysmaking it seem as though I added diversity instead of leadership andtalent to the program. So I just removed this thought from thediscussion by making sure that I always made excellent grades. I alsospoke up in class on the issues. Lastly, I always dressed in a manner tolet them know that I was a serious sista (Black Woman) who would betaken seriously. By the middle of the program, I saw where the Whitestudents began to respect me based on the content of my character andnot tolerate me because of the color of my skin.Linda stated:“Just listening to some of the White students, It was so clear that theythought they were better than me and other Black students. So I justproved them wrong by letting my pen and pencil do the talking. I wasalways recognized for my work and writing skills. I also received adissertation award from a prestigious Educational organization. Theseexperiences forced White students to recognize that I had just as muchtalent and skills as them.”
Mack T. Hines III 106Louise indicated that because of the White privilege/entitlementfactor, she was motivated to quickly and independently complete theprogram. She said:“It was important to me to complete the process as quickly as possible.I did not want to develop long term relationships with my cohortmembers and so I remained focused on the goal of achieving thedoctorate. I tried very hard to engage myself in activities that did notrequire group work and sought assistance outside my cohort members-from people of all ethnic groups. It was important to me to prove that Iwas not a member of the cohort for diversity’s sake only. As a result, Imanaged to complete the entire process in 2 years.”Lena achieved the same goal through confronting racial issues withher White counterparts. Consider the following example:“I think this is perhaps the biggest struggle for any African Americanin a predominantly White program, the pressure to always have to goabove and beyond their White counterparts. I definitely felt this indealing my White Colleagues. I constantly felt like I had to stand upfor myself and my African American counterparts and prove that wedid belong in the programs. So I proved myself by making themrespect me. For example, the white students were very comfortablewith saying things about race on the blackboard, but not in theclassroom. Of course being the outspoken person that I am, the nexttime we had class together, I addressed it. The room was silent andonce again, my professors took notice.”She also said:“Another instance was that when I did not understand something inclass, I constantly raised my hand and by doing so, I somewhat forcedmy professors to provide me with the education for which I waspaying. By doing this, my professors took notice of me as well did mycolleagues.”Of all the women, Lena spoke of these experiences in terms of specificrules for navigating predominantly White doctoral programs. She said:
107 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________“The question always comes up about being an African Americanwoman in a predominantly White program and my response is also tofollow some rules and hopefully you will be okay: Make them takenotice of you in a positive way before they take notice of you in anegative way. In other words, always be on top of your game. Alwaysbe prepared. Do not turn in late work and do not turn in incomplete or“sloppy” work. Always ask questions and present yourself well. Theseare rules that African America females, as well as other AfricanAmerican doctoral students, must follow to be successful inpredominantly White doctoral programs and universities.Unfortunately, one our African American colleagues, an AfricanAmerican female, was dismissed from the program after the secondsemester. She did not follow the rules.”Essence 2: Thriving on The Black Experience The essence of dealing thriving on the Black experienceconsists of positive experiences with Black professors and BlackStudents. Specifically, the students discussed their experiences inworking with Black professors and students to negotiate Whitedoctoral programs of Educational Leadership.Two interrelated themes reflect the essence of experiences: Mentoringfrom Black Professors and Bonding with Black Students. Mentoring from Black Professors Mentoring from Black Professors is one of the well-describedthemes of this research. According to the women, Black professorsused some form of mentoring to assist them with navigating theirdoctoral programs. For Leslie and LENA, Black professors playedsignificant roles in mentoring them through the dissertation process.Leslie explained:“I was extremely thankful for having a Black professor on my doctoraldissertation committee. The reason is that the professor always gave
Mack T. Hines III 108me words of encouragement, especially when times were hard. Thisprofessor would continuously show me how to prepare for adissertation defense. A few weeks before my defense, she even satwith me and required me to conduct a mock dissertation defense.Although I was extremely nervous, I was thankful for how shecritiqued my presentation. She also modeled ways to get main ideasacross to the committee. This experience really served me well, as thecommittee unanimously approved of my defense.”Linda indicated:“My dissertation process was a living hell. But the one bright spot onmy committee was my Black committee member. She knew that theWhite professors on my committee were giving me a hard time. At thesame time, she knew that if she confronted them, it would make it hardfor me. So she scheduled some time with me away from campus andworked with and motivated me on how to complete the dissertation.”Louise and Lena spoke of how Black professors mentored themthroughout the overall doctoral experience. Louise defined hermentoring experiences through a Black professor’s encourage tocomplete the program.She explained:“At so many points in the program, I was extremely disillusioned inthe program that I started to rethink my decision to enter the program.”After further probing, she admitted: “I was just so tired of the blatant dominance of the White powerstructure that dominant every aspect of the doctoral experience. Butlike a Godsend, Dr. A (Black Professor) just began to talk with meabout the importance of completing the program. She would pull meinto her office and say, ‘Look here, you are a young, gifted, and blacksista. And you must complete this program. Don’t you let the Whiteprivilege and White discrimination derail you.’ We began to talk somuch that she became a mixture of a mentor, angel, and second momto me.”
109 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________ Lena attributed her completion of the doctoral program to twoBlack professors in her department. She indicated that one of theprofessors provided her with a global, ethnic perspective on the needfor completing the program. The other professor showed her how tonavigate the political structure of her doctoral program.She said: “Professor X (Black Professor) was a very accomplished professor. Imean he wrote numerous books on the Black experience and evenmarched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And he seemed to use theseexperiences to mentor me through the program. I vividly rememberone instance of how he gave me a copy of Dr. Benjamin Mays’ speechon “Low Aims.” He would then quote Dr. Mays and Say, ‘Not failure,but low aim, is a sin.’ He would then tell me to aim high and get allthat you can get from the doctoral experience.”In reference to the other professor, she stated:“Dr. Y (Black Professor) was very savvy. She knew and taught mehow to deal with the political structure of a White doctoral program ofeducational leadership. She would tell me-and other Black students(Which were few and far in between) things like “Always do your bestin class,” and “Recognized that you are a representation of yourselves,your families, and every Black professor in this department and at thisuniversity. She would show us how to find resources or any thingneeded to stay abreast of the doctoral experience. As a result, I wouldalways go to her for advice on dealing with any matter related to mydoctoral experience.” Bonding with Black Students
Mack T. Hines III 110 With the exception of Louise, All of the women formedmeaningful relationships with other Black students. Leslie and Lenaformed these relationships at the beginning of the program. As sheprogressed through the program, Linda formed relationships withother Black Students. Overall, the relationships represented bondingthat helped them to complete the program. What follows is adescription of each woman’s experience.Leslie said:“At first, I was the only African American female and at 21, theyoungest member of my doctoral cohort. After the first semesteranother African American female joined the cohort and we began outjourney of “African American Accountability.” This level ofaccountability involved helping each other persist through the classand the comprehensive exams.”Lena said:“On the first night of class, I was pleasantly surprised that I was notthe only African American student admitted. There were three otherfemales and two males. We immediately bonded. It was though weknew we were going to need each other through this experience, andwe did. Unlike the White students, we did not know each other oranyone else in the cohorts. So, initially we formed a group. However,as we progressed through the program, we did change up our groupfrom time to time.”LL said:“The most positive aspect of the doctoral program for me was otherAfrican American students. One on level, most of the teaching ofinstruction was very effective, yet little was given to cultural diversity.I got that from working with other African American student. Overtime, I found that African American students were like a bond or shallI say an ethnic and psychological safety net for me. We would oftenmeet after class and dialogue on class other program relatedexperiences.”
111 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________ Discussion The findings from this study are comparable to research onAfrican American female doctoral students. Surprisingly, the womenof this study did not define their doctoral experiences in terms of theBlack Feminist Theory (Hill-Collins, 1996). Their experiences werelargely defined by the intersection of previous research and the CriticalRace theory (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001). For example, consider Linda’s summarization of herexperience: “I entered the doctoral program cognizant of thechallenges and barriers that could and would occur (rigor incurriculum and instruction). But I was not prepared for theunprofessionalism that was displayed in discriminating practices bymajority of the White teaching staff. The gold old boy-and girl-policyof White favoritism permeated the hallways of the institution.” This experience is consistent with Manigault’s (1999) andEllis’ (2001) indication of African American female doctoral students’negative experiences with White faculty members. Their findingsshowed that most of the women were not supported by White facultymembers in their departments. Consistent with previous research, thewomen of this study sought meaningful mentoring and advising fromAfrican American professors (Ellis, 2001; Essed, 1993; hooks, 1994;Landry, 2003). This research has also shown that the African Americanprofessors are from other departments or outside of the university(Ellis, 2001; Essed, 1993; hooks, 1994; Landry, 2003). My research,however, showed that the females’ African American mentors workedin their departments. This finding has significance, given the smallpercentage of African American faculty members on universitycampuses (Trower, 2002). Based on the women’s descriptions of their mentors, theAfrican American mentoring made a significant difference in their
Mack T. Hines III 112doctoral program experiences. In particular, some of the mentorsreminded the African American female doctoral students of theimportance of fulfilling African American ideals of academicachievement. In this capacity, the mentoring provided the women withthe motivation and confidence to achieve their doctorate degrees. Conversely, their motivation can not be defined in the contextof interacting with White students. In effect, all of the women reportedthat they did not establish meaningful relationships with their Whitepeers. Instead, they observed their White peers exude White privilegeregarding their admittance to the program. Another significant findingis the women’s descriptions of how they were treated by whitestudents. The women perceived that race influenced both the Whitefaculty’s and students’ respect for and views of them. This finding isconsistent with the critical race notion (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001)and research on racially marginalized doctoral experiences of AfricanAmerican women (Essed, 1990; St. Jean & Feagin, 1998). As an example, Leslie indicated that many of her White peerstried to define her program experiences as an indication of the need formulticultural diversity. From a micro-aggression perspective, theWhite students’ attempt to marginalize Leslie’s doctoral experiencereflects a subtle reminder of how they are not expected to be in thedoctoral program. She, as well as other African American doctoralstudents, was not necessarily expected to have the academic astutenessto matriculate a doctoral program of educational leadership.Consequently, the White students subtly conveyed their beliefs in theneed for special provisions to facilitate African American students’entry into doctoral programs. In response, many of the women fromthis study used a counter story approach to prove that they belonged indoctoral programs of educational leadership. The outcomes of this research also suggest that the AfricanAmerican women benefited from their relationships with other AfricanAmerican doctoral students. As indicated in their comments, theserelationships developed into bonds that help the women to navigate
113 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________their doctoral experiences. This finding suggests that doctoral studentsdo have the potential to serve as a source of informal and formalsupport for each other. With regard to the participants of this study, theauthenticity of the support is viewed through the lens of ethnicity. In sum, the findings of this study can be defined in terms ofdealing with and thriving on. In this study, Dealing with described therelationship between the African American female doctoral studentsand White faculty members and White students. Most of theparticipants sensed some level of injustice in dealing with Whitefaculty. They also observed unmarked and unchecked elitist behaviorthrough their dealings with White students. Thriving on denoted their growth from relationships withAfrican American faculty members and African American students.They thrived on the formal and informal mentoring relationships withAfrican American faculty. They also thrived on the academic andsocial bonding with other African American doctoral students. Thus,for African American women, race may be a factor when enteringpredominantly White programs to complete doctoral programs ofeducational leadership. Unlike theoretical underpinnings of BlackFeminist thought, the experiences of African American women’s entryinto these programs may not intersect across race and gender. Implications Due to the small sample size of this study, I am presenting thefindings of this study as implications for the participants’ universities.I am presenting the findings as suggestions for other predominantlyWhite universities with doctoral programs in educational leadership.First, university policy makers should develop ways for reducingAfrican American women’s feelings of dealing with White faculty andstudents. The participants of this study were able to form meaningfulrelationships with African American faculty in their departments.However, most African American females may matriculate doctoral
Mack T. Hines III 114programs of educational leadership that consists of few of virtually noAfrican American faculty. The reason is that most universitydepartments consist of a significantly higher number of White facultymembers than African American faculty members (Trower, 2002).Notwithstanding, African American female doctoral students shouldnot be apprehensive about forming relationships with White facultymembers of doctoral programs in educational leadership. With regards to doctoral programs in educational leadership,administrators could facilitate this relationship by training facultymembers on how to effectively advise and mentor African Americanwomen. They should be trained on how to develop an authenticunderstanding of African American females’ concerns about theirdoctoral coursework and dissertations. They should also be providedwith insight on the significance of offering advice, encouragement,and support to these students. Another suggestion is to demonstrateways for involving African American women in research activitiesthat are not apart of typical class assignments or projects. CaucasianAmerican faculty members should be given tips for showing AfricanAmerican females how to incorporate their doctoral work into theiremployment experiences. Finally, Caucasian American faculty couldalso show interest in African American females’ research interests. Administrators and faculty members could address AfricanAmerican female doctoral students’ experiences with White studentsby facilitating serious discussions about race. In particular, thediscussions should provide the women with the safe space to expresstheir views of differences between their and their White counterparts’doctoral experiences. The women must be allowed and encouraged todiscuss the micro-aggressions that are apart of their doctoralexperiences. With regard to this study, the women should discuss theirfeelings about being viewed as token representatives of their doctoralprogram’s memberships. For African American women, thesediscussions could represent the counter stories needed to help themexperience a sense of belongingness into their doctoral programs ofeducational leadership. The reason is that they counter beliefs that
115 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________portray African American women as being academically inferiordoctoral students to White people. To sustain the significance of this African Americanempowerment, I suggest that administrators and faculty memberscontinuously consider the following questions:What are White doctoral students’ perceptions of the academicintellect of their African American female counterparts? • How do these perceptions impact White doctoral students’ level of respect for and interaction with African American female doctoral students? • How do prior racial experiences shape African American female doctoral students’ trust in and respect for White doctoral students? • Do African American female doctoral students and White doctoral students really value each other’s potential to elevate their doctoral experiences? Based on the findings from this research, the main implicationis to allow African American females to tell their own stories abouttheir experiences in doctoral programs of educational leadership. Byfollowing and extending the focus of this research, administrators andfaculty can develop a cultural awareness of the issues, feelings, andthoughts that may be apart of African American women’s doctoralexperiences. They could then use their testimonies to eliminate micro-aggressions that are used to marginalize African American women’sdoctoral experiences in educational leadership programs. Equallysignificant, they could become more sensitive of and committed to theneed to develop authentic relationships with African American femaledoctoral students. Overall, African American women may be able tothrive on instead of deal with their interactions with CaucasianAmerican faculty and doctoral students.
Mack T. Hines III 116 Limitations This study consists of several limitations. First, this study isbased solely on my personal interpretation of the data. Anotherresearcher may interpret the same results from a different perspective.Second, another limitation is the small sample size of AfricanAmerican women from four states. As such, these findings should notbe perceived as universal experiences of African American women inpredominantly White doctoral programs of educational leadership. Inaddition, this study does not speak to the lived of experiences ofAfrican American women in predominantly White doctoral programsin other disciplines. Van Manen (1990) indicated that thephenomenological research design supports the need for limitedgeneralizability of a study. According to him, “The tendency togeneralize may prevent us from developing understandings that remainfocused on the uniqueness of human experiences” (p.22). However,because of connecting the data to the wider theoretical underpinningsof African American experiences in American, I have positioned thisresearch to be somewhat relevant to other African American women.The remaining limitations of this study are the cross sectional researchdesign and time between participants’ graduation and participation inthe interview process. Future Research Recommendations This study provides a conceptual framework for interpretingAfrican American women’s lived experiences in predominantly Whitedoctoral programs of educational leadership. Because of theinconclusiveness of these outcomes, more research needs to exploredifferent African American experiences in predominantly Whitedoctoral programs. These studies hold the potential to progress ourunderstanding of their lived doctoral experiences. As such, I ammaking the following recommendations for future research:
117 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL_________ • Research needs to examine African American women’s lived experiences as the only African American in predominantly White doctoral programs of educational leadership. • Research should focus on African American women’s lived experiences in predominantly White doctoral programs of other advanced disciplines (Curriculum and Instruction, Social Work, Higher Education). • Research should focus on African American women’s lived experiences in predominantly White doctoral programs of other advanced degrees (e.g. Ph.D, J.D, M.D, Th.D, Psy.D). • A researcher should replicate this study by focusing on African American women’s lived experiences in completing the dissertation process in predominantly White programs of educational leadership and other disciplines. • A study that investigates the lived experiences of White women and White students in predominantly Black doctoral programs of educational leadership and other disciplines would provide an interesting contrast to this study. Conclusion My primary goal for this study was to identify AfricanAmerican women’s lived experiences in predominantly White doctoralprograms of educational leadership. By allowing the women to usetheir voices, they were able to narrate a personal story on theexperience of being Black, female, and a doctoral student in a culturethat doesn’t reflect their cultural beliefs. Surprisingly, I found that their narratives were more indicativeof the Critical Race Theory than the Black Feminist Theory. Althoughrace and gender made the women visible to their doctoral programs,their race caused them to experience feelings of invisibility.Notwithstanding, the women were able to achieve their doctoraldegrees in educational leadership. One reason is that they were able to
Mack T. Hines III 118successfully navigate the “dealing with” aspects of the White privilegestructure of their doctoral programs. In addition, they were able toappreciate the “thriving on” aspects of the Black empowermentstructure of their doctoral programs. These findings highlight the needfor policy makers to facilitate authentic and meaningful interactionsbetween African American women and predominantly White doctoralprograms’ Caucasian American professors and doctoral students.Through careful analysis of micro-aggressions and counter stories,these programs may be able to develop program experiences that areinclusive and appreciative of the lived experiences of AfricanAmerican female doctoral students.
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