Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Diane J. Simon


This qualitative research study determined what factors influenced or hindered the successes of eight African American women who earned doctorates in the field of Education within the past 10 years. The researcher gathered and shared the stories of African American women doctoral degree completers in their own words. Interviews were conducted using the Polycom H.323 videoconferencing system in the School ofEducation at Virginia Commonwealth University.The participants in this study collectively attributed more than 15 factors to helping them complete a doctoral program. Some of the success factors cited include self-determination, knowledge of self and purpose for earning a doctorate, spirituality, development of response and navigational skills, full-time doctoral matriculation and dedicated dissertation writing time. Social support provided by family members, colleagues, and university faculty was determined to be a major factor. Financial support in the form of fellowships, grants, assistantships and student loans was also cited. Institutional factors such as a warm, supportive environment and ease of transition to graduate school also played a role in the women's successes.Likewise, approximately 15 factors were counted as hindrances or obstacles. Some of the hindrances included poor relationships with advisors, lack of financial aid, racism, isolation as a minority student, time encumbrances associated with assistantship duties, family responsibilities and personal illness. Although the number of hindrances and obstacles were nearly equal to success factors, participants overcame these barriers and successfully earned the Doctor of Philosophy degree.Recommendations for doctoral students, advisors and university administrators have implications for changes in higher education policy and practice. African American women doctoral students must be knowledgeable about themselves and possess a clear understanding of their purpose for seeking a doctorate. This knowledge should help guide decision-making and shape a plan of action for successful doctoral program completion.Based upon the results of this study, doctoral advisors and university administrators should commit to fostering success for African American doctoral students by offering academic, financial and social support, as well as establishing a diverse learning environment with a critical mass of faculty and students of color, particularly African Americans.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Education Commons