Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education

First Advisor's Name

Benjamin Baez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Heather Russell

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Sarah Mathews

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Maria Lovett

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Afro-Caribbean college women, Black college women, meaning making, racism, sense of belonging

Date of Defense



This case study was situated within Florida International University and explored how second-generation Afro-Caribbean college women make meaning of their race, ethnicity, and gender. This dissertation expands the existing scholarship on Black college students who have historically been presented as monolithic. Furthermore, my study illuminates how the race, ethnicity, and gender intersect to complicate the experiences of these women. Additionally, my research highlights how the surrounding community of a college campus impacts second-generation Afro-Caribbean college women’s ideas of belonging.

This study involved two semi-structured interviews with 9 undergraduate college women attending FIU. All women self-identified as second-generation Afro-Caribbean. This two-interview scheme is a modification of Seidman (2013) three-phase interview process. The first interview focused on the life history of the participant, and the second interview centers on the lived experiences of the participants within the context of FIU. The women represent backgrounds that include Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guyana, and Belize.

Four overarching themes emerged from this study. First, the study revealed that early childhood experiences, particularly religion, played a major role in gender identity. Second, their physical appearance impacted how others viewed and treated them which influenced how the participants made meaning of their racial identity. Third, the women shared experiences where both their racial and ethnic identities were challenged by others within their racial and ethnic groups. Finally, participants expressed concern of feeling excluded from notions of diversity within the university.

Findings illuminate the factors influencing college choices among second-generation Afro-Caribbean college women. My participants shared powerful stories of how their physical appearance and hair influence how they are viewed and treated. Specifically, these women spoke of engaging in the process of self-love and challenging traditional standards of beauty and professionalism in the media as well within their circle of family and friends. The importance of peer groups where they could be their authentic selves and find comfort against systems of oppression selves were also discussed.





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