Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Norma Marrun

Second Committee Member

Christine Clark

Third Committee Member

Howard Gordon

Fourth Committee Member

Federick Ngo

Number of Pages



The rapid growth of international students, particularly from Sub-Saharan Africa, in U.S. higher education institutions calls for more critical research to understand their nuanced experiences in these institutions. So often, international students are homogenized and put under one umbrella, which shadows their unique experiences, especially those from developing countries and regions like Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, the paucity of literature on these students makes it even harder to hear their voices. Therefore, there is the need to disaggregate international students to become aware of some of their subtle challenges. This study aims to explore the experiences and community cultural wealth (CCW) that Sub-Saharan African international graduate students draw upon to navigate and persist in U.S. higher education. The few studies about Sub-Saharan African international students show that they face majoritarian tales, overt and covert forms of racism, financial hardships, difficulty adjusting to the U.S. higher education system, and issues with English proficiency and accent. These experiences can have a devastating effect on Sub-Saharan African international graduate students’ academic and social affairs. This study utilizes the theoretical frameworks of community cultural wealth and African critical theory to explore the lived experiences of Sub-Saharan African international graduate students. This study adopts critical narrative research as the methodological tool to provide the space for Sub-Saharan African international graduate students’ voices to be heard, particularly their narratives relative to their persistence in U.S. higher education institutions. Critical narrative research is a powerful methodological approach for minoritized groups to make their voices heard. Through in-depth semi-structured interviews and online surveys, nine Sub-Saharan African international graduate students in six U.S. higher education institutions recollect their unique stories in continuity. From the analysis of the data, five major them emerged that are (1) Supportive academic environment for growth, (2) Challenging experiences inside and outside academia, (3) Recruitment strategies, (4) Adapting to the U.S. higher education system, and (5) Community cultural wealth. The findings indicate that although Sub-Saharan African international graduate students discover a collaborative classroom environment facilitated by supportive professors, they face many challenges that could negatively impact their academic success. However, the findings demonstrate that they draw from their community cultural wealth to persevere and persist.


Colonialism; Community cultural wealth; Critical multicultural education; Globalization and internationalization; Higher education; Sub-Saharan African international students


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education

File Format


File Size

2400 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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