Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Pioneering women: Black women as senior leaders in traditionally White community colleges
by Bright, Debra Antoinette, Ed.D., The George Washington University, 2010, 328; 3397642
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this study was to understand the lived leadership experiences of Black women senior-level administrators in traditionally White community colleges. Research suggests that Black women administrators, particularly those employed on White college campuses are often faced with multiple challenges as they attempt to maintain their cultural identity while assimilating to or accommodating the dominant culture of the academy (Owens, 2001), yet there have been very few studies on the experiences of Black women administrators in the community college setting. As such, the primary goal of this research was to illuminate the leadership experiences of Black women administrators in community colleges and how these women made meaning of their lives, with particular attention being given to the ways in which they manage their biculturality while working in their traditionally White two-year institutions.

Using a phenomenological paradigm of inquiry and the bicultural life structure (Bell, 1986, 1990) conceptual framework to undergird this study, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of 14 Black women administrators to explore this research topic. The participants in this study held the position of dean, vice president, provost, or special assistant to the president and were employed at community colleges located in one of five states in the Northeastern, Southeastern, and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.

The outcome of this research is a phenomenological description and interpretation of these leaders' experiences derived from their personal reflections. The following seven themes emerged from the textual data in this study: (1) Pioneering Women: The first, the only, and the lonely; (2) Presidential Aspirations; (3) Dealing with the “-isms.” (4) Struggle for Legitimacy; (5) Detractors; (6) Sustainers; and (7) Negotiating Biculturality.

The findings reveal that their story is one of aspiration, challenges, supports, and navigation of complex experiences. Results of this study provide aspiring Black female leaders with an understanding of what they might expect with regard to attaining a senior-level position in a traditionally White community college. Institutional recommendations spawned from this study include developing formalized leadership training, and mentor-protégé programs for current and aspiring Black women senior-level administrators.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wright, Travis S.
Commitee: Dukes, Charlene M., Dungy, Gwendolyn J., Molasso, William, Williams, Brenda C.
School: The George Washington University
Department: Education and Human Development
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 71/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Black studies, Higher Education Administration, Womens studies
Keywords: Biculturality, Black women, Community colleges, Leadership, Phenomenology, Senior administrators
Publication Number: 3397642
ISBN: 978-1-109-69734-6
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