Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Resource Education and Workforce Development

Document Type



Historically, women and minorities have been underrepresented in executive school leadership. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the lived experiences of Five African American women who in spite of historical statistics became superintendents. The pathways taken by African American women superintendents have failed to manifest educational leadership literature. Researchers, who have chosen to study African American women in leadership, focus mostly on the barriers they face. Findings from this study may be used to inform minority women with superintendent aspirations of experiences that led others to the top. The findings may also be use to support efforts made by university administrators to include the stories of African American women in educational leadership discourse. The methodology used for data collection was a semi-structured interview with Five Superintendents across a southeastern state. The themes that emerged from this study include: Early Aspirations, Professional Experiences, Job Attainment, Mobility, and Reflections. The professional experiences of each participant varied, as each took a different route to the superintendency. They credited their job attainment to student success, their ability to develop teachers, being the only qualified candidate, and a reputation of being fair and consistent. Findings that emerged from an investigating into past mobility, reveals that majority of the participants were the first African American Women Superintendents appointed to their respective districts. Overall, an attribute common to all their stories of ascension was a “Barrier-to-Opportunity” mindset. Each addressed what others would consider a barrier as an opportunity to grow and showcase their abilities.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Kotrlik, Joe W.