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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Gretchen B. Rossman

Second Advisor

Benita J. Barnes

Third Advisor

Joya Misra

Subject Categories

Higher Education


Success in the doctoral context has traditionally been measured by persistence. However, solely equating doctoral persistence with success overlooks salient academic experiences that may address how to assist different students in successfully negotiating and navigating the emotionally complex and complicated terrain of graduate school (Gardner, 2009). Sense of Belonging provides an expanded lens through which to view student success in the doctoral context. This qualitative study explores Black/African American women doctoral student’s perceptions of their Sense of Belonging and how it impacts their academic experience during the dissertation phase. A narrative approach using semi structured interviews was used. Data collection involved a one-phase semi-structured interview protocol, supplemented with journal memos and participant portraits. Findings demonstrate that Sense of Belonging as experienced by these doctoral students is complex and often impacted by multiple layers of the institution including the discipline, department, lab, cohort and faculty advisor; each one of these are increasingly more salient for students during the dissertation phase. The need for doctoral programs to create a more engaging and nurturing environment which is inclusive of diverse and traditionally underrepresented students remains a priority