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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Maurianne Adams

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Higher Education | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Student Counseling and Personnel Services | Women's Studies


ABSTRACT “Give Light and People Will Find a Way”: Black Women College Student Leadership Experiences with Oppression at Predominantly White Institutions MAY 2014 ANDREA D. DOMINGUE, B.A., THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN M. A., NEW YORK UNIVERSITY Ed.D., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST Directed by: Professor Emerita Maurianne Adams Black women college students have a collective history of marginalization and discrimination within systems of higher education (Brazzell, 1996; Turner, 2008). Unlike their White women and Black men counterparts, these women have unique social location in their racial and gender identity where they experience multiple types of oppression from dominant groups and the target groups they are socially assigned (Collins, 2000; Harris-Perry, 2011). While research argues that leadership development is vital to the college experience as an opportunity to empower and engage students in social change, often the implementation of these models fails to consider how racial and gender identity of students influence leadership development or student peer interactions (Byrd, 2009; Kezar & Moriarty, 2000). The exploratory study examines the specific leadership experiences of Black women undergraduate and graduate students at a predominantly White institution. The purpose of this study was to identify the challenges they experience expressing leadership and to learn the sources that nurture Black women’s college student leadership. Drawing from a demographic questionnaire and a series of individual interviews, I explore the following research questions: (1) In what ways do Black women college student leaders experience oppression—discrimination, prejudice, stereotypes and internalization—when exercising their leadership? and (2) What social factors nurture and sustain Black women college student leaders when faced with instances of oppression? Black women college student leaders reported community as a motivation to lead and described challenges navigating racial demographics and hostile campus climates as they entered these roles. Additional challenges with oppression included stereotypes, microaggressions, racialized and gendered self-presentation expectations, along with negotiating voice and silencing. Social factors as sources of nourishment reflected historical traditions of Black women’s leadership; specifically through mothering and mentoring as well as through the formation of social networks and allyship among White peers.