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Advancing African American Women into Leadership Positions within Student Affairs
African American women Student Affairs practitioners experience professional journeys different from other educators in the field because of their race and gender. Although African American women have made a significant impact in the field for nearly a century, published research surrounding their experiences is limited. To fill the gap in literature, this study provides narratives of five African American women Student Affairs practitioners who shared stories about their career trajectories and professional ambitions from a mid-level and senior-level perspective. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand how lived-experiences were perceived and interpreted and what meaning was given to the experiences. Participants were selected from a personal network of women who have worked in the field full-time for at least three years and earned a master’s degree. Using Critical Race Theory and Black Feminist Thought, data collected from resumes and semi-structured interviews were analyzed to identify job duties, responsibilities, and qualifications; trainings and professional development opportunities; and challenges along the way. Open and thematic coding resulted in eight themes: (1) an educator’s desire to teach; (2) meaningful undergraduate experiences; (3) intentional efforts (4) love for the job and a passion for students; (5) feeling blessed, inspired, and privileged; (6) intersectionality; (7) mentors, mentoring, and giving back; and (8) strategies for advancement. Three implications for practice that are discussed are the sharing of counter-narratives by African American women, an increase in programmatic efforts on campus, and an undergraduate degree program that prepares future practitioners for a career in Student Affairs.
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