Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Wayne D. Lewis, Jr.


While Black women have etched a place for themselves as leaders within colleges and universities, few have advanced to the most senior levels of postsecondary administration and they remain underrepresented in those type of roles (Gamble & Turner, 2015; Jackson & Harris, 2007; West, 2015). Scholarly research has explored Black women’s experiences as institutional leaders (Davis & Maldonado, 2015; Smith & Crawford, 2007; Waring, 2003); yet the phenomenon of executive-level higher education administration, specifically as it relates to Black women’s perspectives, is not well known (Enke, 2014; Jean-Marie, Williams, & Sherman, 2009). Moreover, research that directs attention to Black women’s unique leadership experiences as executive-level leaders within a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) is scarce (Gamble & Turner, 2015; Mosley, 1980; West, 2015).

This transcendental phenomenological study examined the perceptions of Black women’s leadership experiences in their roles as executive-level higher education administrators at a PWI and strategies they used to cope with their experiences. Black Feminist Theory, which centers the narratives of Black women and explores how intersecting oppressions impact their everyday lives, was used to frame the study. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews and a review of relevant documents were used to collect the voices of four Black women executive-level leaders. Data collected were analyzed using Moustakas’ (1994) phenomenological method of analysis and synthesized to reveal an essence of the experience of an executive-level higher education administrator at a PWI from the Black woman’s vantage point.

Results indicated the meaning ascribed to the experience of being an executive-level higher education administrator were rooted in: Knowing Who You Are, Developing as a Leader, Engaging in the Rules of the Game, Building Relationships, and Navigating Bias and Conflict. Further, Finding Strength through Spirituality, Relying on Family and Friends, Pursuing Enjoyable Activities emerged as strategies used to manage the phenomenon. This study offers a unique view into Black women’s lived experiences and their perspective on leading at a PWI as an executive-level higher education administrator. Findings contribute to building transformative change at colleges and universities by providing insight and knowledge about the experiences of Black women in higher education administration.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)