African-American Women in the Higher Education Setting

Research Design

This research intends to apply interpretive phenomenology, the aim of which is to describe, understand, and interpret the experiences of study participants. The “being in the world” (dasein) concept is particularly relevant within the interpretive phenomenology approach, thus suggesting that being human is a situated activity, a situation in which things are managed and encountered. According to Heidegger, the understanding of dasein is concerned with understanding that people are always already embedded in the world of meaning (Cooney, Dowling, & Sixmith, 2013). Husserl, on the other hand, stated that it was necessary to set aside the preconceived ideas in order to generate pre-reflective data (Neubauer, Witkop, & Varpio, 2019). Therefore, the focus of interpretive phenomenology applied to this research is to study the lived experiences of research participants.

It is essential that this interpretive phenomenology research approach recognizes the realities of the individuals involved in data collection as they are impacted by the environment in which they live, work, and interact with others. This study will aim to understand those experiences associated with the social and cultural context. Bracketing is a concept that is applied to the interpretive phenomenology approach as related to this study; even though no individual can avoid being influenced by various factors in their lives, the aim is being aware of them and their impact and realize that they can change the way in which people understand and interpret something (Cooney et al., 2013). Therefore, interpretive phenomenology is suitable for the research that aims to understand and interpret the experiences of African-American women within an educational setting, with the intention of determining the meaning of “being in the world” as related to those experiences.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this interpretive phenomenology study is to understand the experiences of African-American women within the higher education setting. At this stage in the research, the experiences of the target population are expected to be characterized by the large number of barriers associated with their socioeconomic, cultural, or ethnic background (Miles, 2012). Black women at universities and colleges, including both administrators and students, face a significant range of issues, specifically in terms of their struggle to be respected and accepted, as well as have a voice that would be viewed as important within an institution with a wide variety of views. In addition, when placed within an environment of predominantly white institutions, African-American women face overwhelmingly underprivileged consequences in contrast to their counterparts who benefit from White privilege.

Black females are at risk for different types of educational failures, ranging from the achievement gap to the inability to be enrolled in a college or university. The band-aid approaches implemented by policymakers are not enough, which leads to further problems once Black students get enrolled (Ricks, 2014). The problems of misrepresentation, stereotyping, and bias targeted at African-American women in US society remain relevant today, and this study is expected to reveal the most pressing issues using interpretive phenomenology (Terry, 2018). This research is expected to explore the current status of African-American women whose education or career path is associated with higher education.

Specifically, it is important to study both the barriers and facilitators of their success as related to determining their level of success and inclusion. In addition, the personal perspectives of participants’ experiences will be revealed to illustrate how their “being” in the educational environment affects their opportunities in advancing in higher education. Through exploring the experiences of participants, it is possible to determine if there is indeed a discrepancy between the academic or occupational success of Black women and their White counterparts.

This study seeks to determine if Black women are underrepresented in both administrative authority positions and as students. Therefore, it is expected to shed light on the lack of equal opportunities and diversity within the higher education setting that limits them from advancing and getting the education and career that they expected. The target population of African-American women will reveal their experiences working or studying at higher education institutions. A successful career or educational attainment are the goal of the population; however, it is likely that the range of opportunities and resources available to them is not the same as offered to their White female counterparts.

The interpretive phenomenology approach applied in this study involves gathering data from face-to-face and phone semi-structured interviews with twenty African-American women who have had experience working or studying at higher education facilities in the United States. The researcher is to identify study subjects who agree to participate in the study to obtain their opinions on the barriers, goals, and opportunities in their future (Austin & Sutton, 2014). The coding and analysis of the data acquired with the assistance of the semi-structured interviews have the potential of enhancing research on the subject that is already available. The contribution of the research is the possibility of influencing social change and being helpful to African-American women who have aspired to reach the high levels in education as students or administrators.

There may be a broad range of themes discovered in the course of the semi-structured interviews with African-American women, the majority of which are linked to the barriers that the target population encounters in the course of their educational experience. For instance, there may be issues associated with the lack of monetary resources, discrimination based on ethnicity or socioeconomic status, higher education readiness, lack of motivation and assistance, along with other issues. The goal of the qualitative thematic analysis that would be performed after the interviews are conducted is to identify and interpret relevant themes that shed light on the nature and quality of experiences associated with being an African-American woman in a higher education setting. Importantly, both the variation and the differences in experiences should be noted – while some interviewees may have had negative experiences being Black in such settings, others could have found them to be rewarding and encouraging.

It is important to avoid stereotyping during this research because it oversimplifies and reduces the uniqueness of subjects’ experiences, labels them, and enables pre-determined expectations based on race or culture. The culture at higher education institutions usually aligns with the culture outside academia, which means that the educational setting reflects the structures of the broader society. Given the parallels, it is not surprising that African-American women experience stereotyping and the lack of support in their education. Therefore, the core purpose of this study on a long-term basis is to shed light on the challenges and barriers that Black women face in the higher education setting as reflected in their general position in society and opportunities presented to them.


Austin, Z., & Sutton, J. (2014). Qualitative research: Getting started. The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, 67(6), 436-440.

Cooney, T., Dowling, M., & Sixmith, J. (2013). An overview of interpretive phenomenology as a research methodology. Nurse Researcher, 20(6), 17-20.

Neubauer, B. E., Witkop, C. T., & Varpio, L. (2019). How phenomenology can help us learn from the experiences of others. Perspectives on Medical Education, 8(2), 90-97.

Ricks, S. (2014). Falling through the cracks: Black girls and education. Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 10-21.

Terry, B. (2018). The power of a stereotype: American depictions of the Black woman in film media. Web.

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1. ChalkyPapers. "African-American Women in the Higher Education Setting." May 28, 2022.


ChalkyPapers. "African-American Women in the Higher Education Setting." May 28, 2022.