Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

Dorian McCoy

Committee Members

Norma Mertz, J. Camille Hall, Joe Miles


Despite decades of efforts on the part of the nation’s postsecondary institutions, racial equity remains a major hurdle facing higher education institutions in the United States (Hylton, 2012; Jackson, 2000, 2001). Although Black women have participated in U.S. higher education for more than a century and have certainly made great strides toward occupying their rightful place within academia, they continue to face a myriad of personal and professional challenges (Burke & Carter, 2015; Gregory, 2001). Some scholars have resolved that existing literature has shifted from sharing the narratives of underrepresented women in senior student affairs officer (SSAO) positions to reporting in gender neutral ways, which leaves their unique experiences undocumented (Clay, 2014; Yakaboski & Donahoo 2011). The purpose of this critical qualitative study was to explore the experiences of purposively selected Black women in SSAO positions. The following research question guided this study: What are the professional experiences of Black women who serve as senior student affairs officers at land-grant colleges and universities? Interviews were conducted with 10 Black women serving in SSAO roles at land-grant higher education institutions, and four themes described the lived experiences of the participants: (a) outsider-within, (b) controlling images, (c) intersectionality, and (d) Black women’s standpoint – shared experiences.

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