Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Mitchell R. Williams

Committee Member

Felecia Commodore

Committee Member

Alan Schwitzer


Organizational structures, beliefs, and values in higher education are influenced by the deep-seated characteristics of patriarchy, dominance and racial and gender bias, upon which higher education was founded. These factors continue to impact the ascension of African American women to college presidencies. Current challenges facing community colleges include a gap in executive leadership and the underrepresentation of African American women in the presidential pipeline.

The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to better understand the experiences that disrupt or terminate the journey to a presidency for African American women in senior level positions at community colleges. The goal was to share the lived experiences of African American senior level administrators at community colleges in the New York Metropolitan area. Participants shared experiences during semi-structured interviews. Participants also described the impact of the intersection of race and gender on their experiences. Seven African American women from six community colleges in the New York Metropolitan area were selected through criterion purposeful and snowball sampling.

Through the lens of Black Feminist Thought a five-step analysis yielded eight major themes: (a) persistence of power and privilege, (b) development of strategies to survive, (c) community college president’s role, responsibilities, and impact, (d) fighting the fight against stereotypes, (e) invisibility, (f) evaluating quality of life, (g) racism and discrimination, and (h) a journey of faith. These findings indicated that the unique experiences of African American women are comprised of racist and discriminatory acts which result in appropriated power, feelings of invisibility, leadership challenges, and struggles with authenticity.

Implications for community college leaders and practitioners consist of taking action to understand why the experiences of African American women leaders are unique, reduce the number of racist and discriminatory experiences, and better understand the impact of these experiences. This study encourages leaders and practitioners to secure mentoring and supplemental support, develop campus-wide cultural competency, and design opportunities to understand unique experiences. Recommendations for further research include exploring other regions of the country, comparing the experiences of African American senior level women with those in other races, and assessing the experiences of mid-level African American leaders in community colleges.