Leadership experiences of African American women who are mid-level student affairs administrators

Clayborne, Hannah
Major Professor
Florence Hamrick
Committee Member
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

For too long the universal leadership map for those interested in learning about leadership has drawn from the leadership values and beliefs of individuals whose life experiences do not fully represent the demographical changes that have occurred within the larger community (Parker, 2005). Consequently, African American women with intentions of using extant literature on leadership as a means or directional tool to gaining higher levels of personal and professional understanding of their own leadership approaches, inevitably confront a discourse shaped by the perceptions and experiences of White men and White women (Parker, 2005). To this end, exploration of leadership issues related to one of these groups---African American women mid-level student affairs administrators---was the primary focus of this qualitative study. Six African American women with at least six years, but no more than 15 years, in student affairs participated in this study. All of the respondents were currently employed in the student affairs division at their respective institutions, which include four Associate Colleges (two year institutions) and two Doctoral Research Intensive Institutions. Personal leadership approach, professional experiences as mid-level experiences, professional challenges, and support structures were the four themes that emerged in this study on leadership experiences of African American women student affairs administrators. Conclusions drawn from the study were that heterarchical and collective forms of leadership practices and beliefs rather than hierarchical were described and exhibited by the respondents. Supervisor-supervisee relationship appeared to impact the respondents' abilities to fulfill their leadership responsibilities. The positional realities of being mid-level administrators appeared to be a mixed bag of positive and negative realties. The formal and informal network served a critical role in respondents' abilities to minimize some of the professional challenges they encounter in their workplaces. The confounding nature of racial and gender issues emerged in the respondents' accounts of their leadership experiences.