DISSERTATION DEFENSE ANNOUNCEMENT Ph.D. in Higher Education Program: Shari Cunningham “Research Universities in Search of Our Kind of People: Black Women Doctoral Student Socialization”

1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

As research universities become more visibly “diverse,” scholarship must contend with whether inclusion is also a part of higher education’s future. This project examines doctoral education’s attitudes, beliefs, and ideologies as a site of persistent exclusionary practices and impetus for enduring change. Some scholarship has suggested that intellect alone does not suffice, and knowing how to navigate academia’s social dynamics is one of the most important lessons doctoral students learn. Hence, this project focused on the social aspects of doctoral training, seeking to move beyond quantitative benchmarks of diversity. This research project explored the lived experience of Black women doctoral students in Ph.D. programs in the Humanities at research universities. Data collection included 15 semi-structured interviews examining the experience of Black women doctoral students enrolled at three R1 public universities located in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Southern United States. Three research questions guided this project, covering the perception of academic socialization, relationship building, and the history of the universities as racialized organizations. Three major findings from my project include: (1) the significance of the advisor/advisee relationship was linked to student’s resource allocation, skill development/career preparation, and persistence toward degree completion; (2) In addition to race, Black women’s experiences were informed by sexist ideologies that added to the presumptions and expectations of faculty unrelated to their academic abilities; (3) the (mis)alignment of beliefs on the purpose of a doctoral education between the advisor and advisee contributed to the quality of their relationship and a student’s perception of their scholarly identity.

To access the Zoom link required to attend, please contact academic.services@gse.rutgers.edu.