• Institutional Factors that Support and Impede Black Female Undergraduates at Predominantly White Institutions

      Pickens, Wanda V; Tift College of Education
      Under the direction of Dr. Olivia Boggs, Ed.D. The study addressed the persistently deficient baccalaureate degree attainment of African American females, documented by a graduation rate of 45%, compared to a national average of 65% for all women. Using phenomenological methodology, the study explored the academic, social, physical, emotional, psychological, and financial experiences of 11 Black female college alumnae who successfully completed their bachelor’s degrees at a [Predominantly White Institution (PWI)]. The depth of the inquiry allowed participants to retrospectively recall and ascribe meaning to their academic and non-academic undergraduate experiences. Each of the subjects provided insights into barriers and hindrances encountered during their undergraduate matriculation. Further, participants described experiences that facilitated, strengthened, and empowered their degree pursuits. Using theories of Black feminist thought along with a second lens of intersectionality, the study was guided by the following research question: What are the shared experiences of Black female undergraduates at predominantly white institutions that defined their lived experiences, the expectations placed upon them, and how they maneuvered through their educational journey? Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and analyzed utilizing a six-phase approach to thematic analysis. Findings revealed four themes: Non-Relatability and Non-Affirmation, Increased Self-Awareness Within PWI Spaces, Lack of Mentorship, and Retention Team. Findings further illustrated positive and negative influences of the participants’ academic, cultural, and social lived experiences. Recommendations were discussed that encompassed specific initiatives. The first initiative promoted the development of an empathetic approach design of support services specifically for Black female undergraduates. The second initiative advocated for equipping faculty and staff members who interface with Black female students regularly with the proper training they need to understand and embrace the African American culture. The third initiative involved utilizing dialogue and other tools to prevent exclusionary behaviors, policies, and stifling structures of power that hinder progress of retaining marginalized student populations. These initiatives aimed to guide university administration, faculty and staff who are committed to a transformative process to increase graduation rates for Black females matriculating at PWIs.