Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves, PhD

Second Advisor

James McMillan, PhD

Third Advisor

Jesse Senechal, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Jessica Venable, PhD


This qualitative inquiry explored the ways in which US-born, Black faculty member participants in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) interact with the National Science Foundation (NSF). Eight Black HBCU STEM faculty members with a range of involvement in NSF-related activities were individually interviewed. Topics of discussion with participants included their prior experiences with NSF, their understanding of the merit review process, and their understanding of their personal and institutional relationships with NSF and the STEM community. Two broad findings emerged from the conversations. The first was that issues of communities and social identity were important to the participants’ work as research scientists. Participants prioritized advancing people and communities over advancing the knowledge of ambiguous, disembodied scientific disciplines, and some participants were motivated by interests in social justice. However, participants maintained strong identities as scientists and the discussions provided no evidence that other social factors influenced their application of the scientific method. The second major finding dealt with the role participants perceived their institutions playing in their involvement with NSF. All participants described challenges associated with pursuing research in HBCU environments and, in some cases, the institutional challenges served as the motivation for participants’ projects, with varying consequences. Finally, this study developed and refined a theoretical framework for explaining the underrepresentation of HBCUs in NSF funding streams. In developing this framework, a brief history of the origination of HBCUs, NSF, and the NSF merit review process is presented.


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