Department of Educational Administration


Date of this Version

Spring 2010


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Educational Administration (Student Affairs Administration), Under the Supervision of Professor Rachelle Winkle-Wagner. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2010
Copyright (c) 2010 Sheena M. Kennedy


The purpose of this study was to explore the college experiences of African American females in their sophomore year at a Midwestern Research-Extensive institution. This study investigated these individuals’ transitions to college and sought to understand their lived experiences. Also, the study examined what strategies these individuals employed to persist in college. The intent of this study was to contribute to research on African American women in higher education by documenting their experiences.

This study upheld the literature that African American students encounter feelings of isolation, alienation, and marginality on the college campus (Allen & Haniff, 1991; Fleming, 1984; Gossett, Cuyjet, & Cockriel, 1998; Love, 2008; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Rosenberg & McCullough, 1981; Willie & McCord, 1972), have trouble balancing family issues with their transitional obstacles (Feagin, Vera, & Imani, 1996; Herndon & Hirt, 2004; Love, 2008; Winkle-Wagner, 2009), and face a sense of academic unpreparedness (Allen & Haniff, 1991; Kobrak, 1992; Willie & McCord, 1972), and experience limited and often forced social connections (Davis, 1991; Davis, 2004; Herndon & Hirt, 2004; Littleon, 2003; Museus, 2008; White, 1998; Willie, 2003).

After analyzing the data of eight face-to-face interviews of participants who were African American females in their sophomore year at the University, four major themes emerged: (a) Why Am I Here, (b) Reality Check, (c) Relate to Me, and (d) The Only Black Girl. The results from this qualitative study revealed how the participants got to college, aspects of college life they were not prepared for, their journey in establishing relationships, and feeling like they were the only one of their race present on campus. Implications for African American females, campus student groups, faculty members, and student affairs administrators and professionals are given, as well as recommendations for future research.