Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Eugenia Vomvoridi-Ivanovic, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Vonzell Agosto, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Edward Fletcher, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James L. Moore III, Ph.D.


African American Women, Experiences, Overall well-being, Persistence, Sense of agency, STEM Education


In this inquiry I used Black Feminist Thought as the interpretive lens to investigate the characterizations and experiences of high achieving Black women undergraduate engineering and mathematics majors at a predominantly white institution. The qualitative inquiry considered intersecting oppressions to evaluate the experiences of this population. In particular, Black women operate in the intersection of race and gender, thus for a thorough analysis of their engineering and mathematics experiences to occur, the historical context of the United States and its oppressive structures must be considered. Stereotypes and systemic oppression follow this socially constructed identity as the participants enter the fields of engineering and mathematics as Black women. In order to develop relevant suggestions to increase the participation of this population in the field, I assert that the social construction of this intersectional identity must be considered.

I evaluated the participants' experiences to determine its influence on their academic persistence and overall well-being. I implemented sista circle methodology, an ethnographic method that embodies a gender specific research methodology. Sista circle methodology expands beyond traditional methodology to draw on social relations, the wisdom of Black women in U.S. context, and functions as a medium for mentorship as a Black feminist practice. The data I collected as part of this study included a demographic survey, pre-interview, two sista circles, vision board collage, post-sista circle electronic reflection, "sista circle" alternative interview, and member checking.

There were five participants in this study, and three of these participants engaged in the sista circle unity getaway and the remaining two participants completed the sista circle alternative interview. I analyzed the responses of all five participants in the interviews and sista circles to identify themes that emerged in this study. Eight themes emerged from the data: The first finding presented normalized policies and practices that reproduced an unwelcoming academic climate and specifically, 1) access to caring professors and the 2) competitive isolating environment. The academic climate forced the participants to negotiate self-doubt as they question if their program is the appropriate means to pursue their future career endeavors, in the second finding the participants experienced 3) variations in program expectations and reality, 4) a shift in academic self-concept, and 5) negotiated alternatives to persistence. In the third finding the participants responded to the conditions in the academic climate through forms of resistance, which include the construction of a 6) professional persona, 7) sense of community and peer bonds, and identifying 8) academic opportunities as motivational tools.