Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Administrative Leadership

First Advisor

Larry G. Martin

Committee Members

Carol Colbeck, Liliana Mina, Alfonzo Thurman


Black Women, Millennials, Peer Relationships


Eighty percent of Black women (BW) enrolled in colleges and universities attend majority white institutions (Hill, 2009). Though seemingly highly represented in higher education, research studies cite BW as having a graduate degree completion rate of less than 30% (Aston & Oseguera, 2004). A phenomenological study involving 15 graduate (master’s degree candidates) millennial Black women aspiring and/or acting leaders (MBWALs) was conducted to explore the types of peer relationships--A mutual relationship of similar hierarchical status--in terms of educational level or age group--where both parties perceive themselves as equals--(McDougall & Beattie, 1997) MBWALs experience. The study also sought to understand how these relationships functioned and positively influenced their existence in majority white urban universities (MWUUs). The researcher leveraged both the perspectives of Social Network Theory (Kram, 1985) and Black feminist-Womanism (Lindsey-Dennis, 2015) to structure the research process, and to interpret each participant’s experiences as MBWALS in MWUUs. Findings from this study suggests that graduate millennial Black women aspiring or acting leaders (MBWALs) experienced peer relationships in a variety of ways, and were key in providing an alternate means of sustainability--showing endurance and the act of enduring against something--and persistence during their time in pursuit of their graduate degree. Through this research, three main types of peer relationships surfaced and were identified as the following: (a) the sistah gurl peer relationship, (b) the proxy mentor peer relationship, and (c) the rival peer relationship. Other themes emerged from the study in regards to MBWALs’ use of peer relationships as identify affirmation and ways to buffer negative race related behaviors such as micro-aggressions-- (Sue, Capodilupo, et. al., 2007, p. 273). These themes led to conclusions that peer relationships played a substantial role in the academic lives of MBWALs.

Keywords: Black feminist-Womanism, persistence, sustainability, peer relationships, millennial