Lived experiences of black women special education doctoral students at a predominately white institution




Carter, Jessica Faith

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For decades, the United States educational system has struggled to find ways to educate children of color, especially children from these populations with disabilities. One solution to address the needs of this population of children is by increasing the presence of culturally competent teachers in classrooms; however, there is also a shortage of faculty, such as black women, with the background and skill set to help develop culturally competent teachers. The shortage of black women faculty can be attributed to a number of factors, including black women’s educational experiences from primary grades through their doctoral studies. Research has shown that black women in doctoral programs are more likely to experience challenges in pursuit of their education due to the intersectionality of their race and gender that can impact how they are recruited, mentored, and supported throughout their doctoral studies. This case study explores why black women believe they are needed in this niche field in education as well as their lived experiences as doctoral students in a special education program to gain an understanding of how this population of students can be better supported to complete their studies. Current doctoral students (n = 4) participated in two individual interviews and a focus group. Data were member checked, coded, and analyzed for themes. Key findings from data demonstrated that black women doctoral students: (a) experienced challenges related to navigating the academic landscapes of their institutions, (b) faced difficulties maintaining a healthy work/life/school balance, and (c) were motivated to pursue their degrees to help others in the special education field.


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