Women of African descent: Persistence in completing doctorates

Vannetta Bailey Iddrisu, Florida International University


This study examines the educational persistence of women of African descent (WOAD) in pursuit of a doctorate degree at universities in the southeastern United States. WOAD are women of African ancestry born outside the African continent. These women are heirs to an inner dogged determination and spirit to survive despite all odds (Pulliam, 2003, p. 337).This study used Ellis’s (1997) Three Stages for Graduate Student Development as the conceptual framework to examine the persistent strategies used by these women to persist to the completion of their studies. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, transcribed, and analyzed for the 10 study participants. The study examined their beliefs, roles, and support systems utilized during their studies to help propel them to succeed. Interview data were analyzed using cross-case analysis to discover emerging themes and patterns. A comparative analysis was used to analyze the participants’ experiences and discover themes and patterns to review against the historical data. The findings showed that WOAD experienced feelings of isolation, neglect and racial prejudice as doctoral students. Their ability to formulate supportive relationships among each other and in their communities outside the university was key to their persistence to graduation. There still remains a need to create a more engaging and inclusive environment for nontraditional students, particularly those who are WOAD. The study concludes with six strategies of success used by these WOAD to persist to completion. Those six strategies include 1. Keeping the goal of earning a doctorate and graduating foremost on your mind. 2. Set a class and study schedule that allows you to balance family, work and study. 3. Take care of yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally. 4. Keep a goal chart to track your strides toward completion/graduation. 5. Establish a strong support system among your family, friends, colleagues and community; and 6. Do not let the “isms” (racism, sexism, and ageism) deter you.

Subject Area

African American Studies|Black studies|Womens studies|Adult education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Iddrisu, Vannetta Bailey, "Women of African descent: Persistence in completing doctorates" (2010). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3447776.