Date of Award

December 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Administrative Leadership

First Advisor

Susana Muñoz

Committee Members

Elizabeth Dramé, Decoteau Irby, Jennifer Doering, Carol Colbeck


Black Motherhood, Doctoral Study, Identity Development


The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how the context of doctoral study within predominantly white and elite research institutions in the Midwest facilitates identity development among Black doctoral women student parents. This phenomenological study employed Black feminist epistemologies as both a methodological underpinning and interpretive lens to examine how seven Black women doctoral student parents negotiate and made meaning of their intersectional identities.

The six key findings that emerged from this study were: (1) negotiating intersectionality as trauma in childhood; (2) negotiating microaggressions related to invisibility/hypervisibility; (3) negotiating structural macroaggressions as violence; (4) hidden costs of negotiating black womanhood and motherhood at PWIs; (5) negotiating standards of Black motherhood and womanhood; (6) Black doctoral student parent ways of negotiating intersectionality.

Analysis revealed that the women’s responses to negotiating intersectionality was a dialectical tension between accommodation and resistance. Together, these themes explore the ways in which Black women experience, respond to and perform intersectionality as both identity and experience. Conclusions drawn were that the transmission of Black women’s cultural legacy of trauma, survival and resistance from the historical context of slavery informed the development of these identity negotiation tools. This study suggests that the experience of being a Black mother in predominantly white institutions is a contradictory experience that facilitates both harm and healing. Recommendations from this research for higher education practice, policy development as well as future research areas are presented.