Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Committee Member

Robert Ackerman

Second Committee Member

LeAnn Putney

Number of Pages



There are many prevailing myths that have influenced society's perception of Black women. As a result, a tradition of negativity surrounds African American women in American society. It is these "negative perceptions and misinterpretation of African American women's behavior that found its way into colleges and universities" (Myers, 1991, p. 9). Unlike White women, and Black men, Black women in academe experience double jeopardy; race and gender biases (Gregory, 1995; Myers, 2002). Research on Black women has found that they are concentrated at the lowest academic ranks, non-tenured, paid less than their male and White female counterparts, and promoted at slower rates, marginalized, viewed as tokens, isolated, expected to work harder, and generally lack mentorship and collegiality (Moses, 1997). Despite these obstacles, a number of Black women succeeded to become university and college presidents; The purpose of this research was to explore the journeys of three African American women college and university presidents through their history, educational preparation, career paths, and experiences. In addition, the expectation was to identify perceptions of barriers, strategies, and leadership characteristics employed to acquire the position of' president. This study specifically addressed questions regarding their perceptions of challenges, how these challenges were overcome, and how those challenges shaped their leadership style. Exploration of these areas through observations, qualitative interviews, and document collection provided the researcher with valuable information that contributed to the extant research on African American women in leadership positions; The analysis and interpretation of the data was made through the phenomenological method of horizontalization, categorization, and textural and structural descriptions (Creswell, 1998; Merriam, 1998; Tesch, 1990; Spiegelberg, 1965; Moustakas, 1994). Using that methodology, seven themes were identified: family background, the communities where they grew up, segregation, Black identity development, educational experiences, professional pathway, and leadership style; The three participants in this study attributed their success to strong family backgrounds, growing up in Black communities, the Black church, and attending predominately Black schools which fostered their Black identity, strong sense of self; self-esteem, resiliency, motivation and determination to succeed. They found through resiliency and determination creative strategies to manage the obstacles they encountered as they journeyed to the presidency. While they each took various pathways to the presidency, they generally practiced transformational leadership styles.


African-American; American; College Presidents; Female; Journeys; Presidents; Qualitative; Women Administrators

Controlled Subject

School management and organization; Women's studies; Blacks--Study and teaching

File Format


File Size

9185.28 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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