Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Nao Hagiwara, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Kristina Hood, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kaprea Johnson, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Fantasy Lozada, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Zewelanji Serpell, Ph.D.


Research examining Black students’ school experiences demonstrates that exposure to oppressive power dynamics in schools may lead to adverse physiological and psychological consequences. Recent conceptualizations in public discourse further posit that traumatic educational experiences, operationalized here as academic trauma or the cumulative toll of adverse and oppressive experiences in academic settings, may influence Black students’ wellbeing even after they have graduated. However, academic trauma has yet to be investigated empirically, and the health contributions of such educational harm remain unstudied. Moreover, little is known about how culturally-relevant personal characteristics (e.g., emotion regulation strategies) influence Black students’ reactivity to academic trauma. This dissertation empirically tested academic trauma as a systemic form of trauma contributing to the physical and mental health outcomes of a sample of 130 Black postsecondary students.

Results revealed that exposure to academic trauma was predictive of greater posttraumatic stress symptomology, above and beyond the effects of general trauma, overall health, major experiences of discrimination, college stress, and several other relevant personal characteristics (i.e., financial status, sexual orientation, and high school preparation). Moreover, greater use of racialized emotion regulation exacerbated the psychological toll of academic trauma.

Given that adverse experiences in the education system have wide reaching effects for Black Americans, empirically establishing academic trauma as a unique factor contributing to racial disparities in health outcomes is a critical first step for achieving health equity. These findings have important implications for higher education institutions, the actors they imbue with power (i.e., faculty, staff, campus police), and their counseling resources.


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