Increasing the number of advanced degree recipients is more than an educational issue; it is also a key social issue. "A college-educated population results in pivotal benefits to society" (The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2004, p. 1). Although African Americans have made steady and notable progress in doctorate degree attainment, there is still more room to grow. Therefore, it is important to understand the experience of earning the doctoral degree to make sure we can disseminate this information to the greater community and help others to achieve these positive outcomes. This qualitative study explored the experiences of African American females who have obtained the doctorate degree. The selected sample was composed of 7 African American women who had obtained a doctorate degree from a traditional university during the past 15 years. The data collection method was structured interviews conducted throughout a 1-week period. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. In accordance with literature on qualitative study, triangulation and member checking were some of the methods utilized to ensure credibility. Six themes emerged from the data that connected the doctoral journeys of all 7 participants and were categorized as: (a) High educational expectations by a teacher, counselor, or parent promote college degree attainment; (b) Early academic achievement and school involvement motivate future study; (c) Student support services and institutional integration aid in doctoral student persistence; (d) Mentors and social supports play a critical role in students' persistence and success; (e) Clear educational goals and self-determination are crucial to doctoral degree completion; and (f) A dissertation chair and committee members who are supportive aids program completion. Based on the results of the study, parents should set high expectations for students early and encourage participation in extracurricular activities. University administrators and doctoral advisors should provide academic, social, and emotional support for doctoral students by way of formal program orientations, mentors, counselors, and writing resource centers.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; African American women -- Education (Higher)

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Rosensitto, Michelle;