Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Donna Talbot

Second Advisor

Dr. Regina Garza-Mitchell

Third Advisor

Dr. Donald Mitchell


African American men, Predominantly White Institutions, community college transfer, successful transfer students, critical race theory, African American males


African American men complete post-secondary education among the lowest rates of any other subgroup in higher education (Brooms & Davis, 2017; Farmer & Hope, 2015; Palmer, Wood, Dancy, & Strayhorn, 2014; Warde, 2008). This study focuses on addressing this problem by attempting to understand the experiences of African American men who successfully navigate a higher education pipeline from community college to a four-year, predominantly White institution (PWI). Half of all African American men enter higher education at the community college level (Villavicencio, Bhattacharya, & Guidry, 2013); therefore, community college plays a key role in shaping their experiences in higher education moving forward. Also, educational data has shown that an African American man, who is also a transfer student, has a small chance of transferring to a four-year PWI and completing a degree.

To address this issue, this study is designed to understand how African American men in PWIs of higher education, after successfully transferring from community college, describe and make meaning of their experiences. The design for this qualitative study is phenomenology and is applied to discover the deep interconnectedness shared by this study’s participants. Additionally, Critical Race Theory’s five educational tenets by Yosso, Smith, Ceja, and Solórzano (2009) were used to understand the contributions that race had on the experiences of participants.

I engaged semi-structured interviews with 10 African American men at midwestern PWIs who successfully transferred from a community college. Initial analysis of the data yielded four emergent themes. These themes highlight the participants’ experiences with the invisibility of race while at their PWI, how participants’ community college experiences shaped their experiences at the PWI, how participants remained determined to achieve their goals through higher education while facing adversity, and how participants ultimately did not express any regrets about attending a PWI. The findings from this research suggest how important it is for practitioners and researchers, whose primary focus is African American men, to continue to design initiatives and research highlighting their stories of success. This positive realignment in practice and research is essential to combating the deficit perspective that dominates the conver-sation regarding African American men in higher education.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access