Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, PhD

Committee Chair

Jean-Marie, Gaetane

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Bukoski, Beth

Committee Member

Larson, Ann

Committee Member

Bergman, Matthew

Committee Member

Rowland, Terri

Author's Keywords

Adult African American women; Educational resilience; Critical race theory; Critical race feminism; Counternarratives


African American women college students--Social conditions; Academic achievement--Social aspects; Racism in higher education


Although increasing numbers of adults are entering college, their attrition rates are higher than those of their traditional student counterparts (ACT, 2010; Bergman, 2012). Additionally African American women are entering college in larger numbers than their African American male counterparts, and more so than within other minorities or underrepresented students populations (Mangino, 2010; NCES, 2012; 2014; Ntiri, 2001; Rosales & Person, 2003). Turning away from the deficit notion of their intellectual and social abilities, this qualitative study utilized critical analysis (Yosso, Parker, Solórzano & Lynn, 2004) and participant reflection of first-hand experiences of resilient adult African American women university graduates of an urban predominantly White university (PWI). Recruited through purposeful sampling from recent adult African American female graduates of the Bachelors of Science of Workforce Leadership program at the University of Louisville, their counternarratives were developed from a series of semi-structured interviews and existing documents. Critical race theory (Yosso, Parker, Solórzano & Lynn, 2004) and critical feminist theory (Wing, 2000) contributed the vi theoretical framework for the analysis of the counternarratives. The most prevalent experienced adversities included perceived racism, family challenges and adult learner challenges. Coping strategies that impacted the educational resilience of adult African American women were found to be family support, spirituality and religious faith and inner strength. Implications to the persistence of adult African American women attending urban PWIs and practices and programming of adult student services in higher education are discussed. Adult African American women, educational resilience, critical race theory, critical race feminism, counternarratives