Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jasmine R. Renner

Committee Members

Martha Copp, Kathryn K. Franklin, Glenn Bettis, Elizabeth Ralston


This study addressed the academic, cultural, and social expectations and experiences of 20 African American juniors and seniors at 2 predominantly White universities in the southern Appalachian region of the United States. The participants' described experiences revealed how institutional practices promoted or obstructed their persistence to graduation.

Qualitative ethnographic methodology with critical race theory as the conceptual framework guided the study. This approach allowed for the perspectives and lived experiences of the students to be voiced and heard. Data collected included their stories based on semistructured interviews, document reviews, and observations. The constant comparison method was used to analyze the data through the critical race interpretive lens of racism as the persistent reality of people of color. In combination, the data illustrated the positive and negative impacts of student-institution relationships and the campus racial climate on African American students' experiences at the universities under study.

Findings indicated a dissonance between the students' academic, cultural, and social expectations and experiences primarily caused by unanticipated racist experiences in the classrooms, on the campuses, and in the campus' communities-at-large. Positive relationships with administrators, faculty members, and staff emerged as the most significant contributors to the students' capability to safely and successfully navigate academic, social, and cultural pathways leading to graduation. Recommendations based on the results of the study are provided for university administrators, faculty members, and staff who are committed to improving the college experience and persistence to graduation rates for students of color matriculating at predominantly White universities.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.