Maintaining One's Consciousness: An Exploratory Study of Upper-level Black Community College Administrators as Racially Conscious Leaders

The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of Black community college administrators who have transitioned to upper-level management, while maintaining their own race consciousness. A race conscious mindset is defined as: (a) acknowledgement of racialized self as Black; (b) normative emphasis on racial group membership as part of overall self-concept; (c) a comprehensive understanding of racialized self within racial and social context; (d) an in-depth understanding of the complexities of racism and systemic oppression; and (e) proactive engagement in work aiming to disrupt institutional marginalization. This study also examined how Black administrators, who serve or have served as chancellor, vice-chancellor, president, or vice-president navigate leadership expectations of the California Community College system, while maintaining the saliency of their own consciousness. The following questions guided this exploratory study: 1. How do racially conscious Black community college administrators describe their preparation for upper-level institutional leadership? 2. What perceptions do upper-level Black administrators have of critical consciousness and its impact on their ability to effectively persist in higher education leadership? 3. What impact, if any, does racial consciousness have on the ability to persist in higher education leadership for Black community college administrators? Critical race Theory and an existential lens, along with an historical foundation focused of racism and education, provided the conceptual framework that allowed race and the effects of racism to remain central throughout the various phases of data collection and analysis. Using a qualitative, constructivist grounded theory design undergirded by semi-structured interviews, data exploring upbringing, academic and professional preparation, approach to leadership, perceptions of race and racism, and advantages and disadvantages to being a Black administrator were collected. Based on analysis of findings the following themes emerged: (a) race continues to be a factor with deep roots and far reaching implications for Black educational leaders and learners; (b) preparation beyond traditional and universal requirements is essential to career advancement; (c) there are clear generational variances in regards to understanding of and approach to critically conscious leadership; and (d) the necessary characteristics and dispositions for upper-level administration.


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