Black college and university presidents at predominantly White four-year institutions: Factors which hinder and facilitate advancement

Denise Pearson Robinson, Marquette University

Abstract

African Americans are severely underrepresented at almost all levels of American higher education. The lack of black representation among the ranks of faculty and administration has received increasing attention in recent years, particularly at the chief executive level. Research conducted in related areas identified a variety of factors which can be attributed to the lack of representation and participation. These factors included racial stereotyping and discrimination, lack of administrative development opportunities, the absence of support and guidance during graduate study, and public opinion. This study identified and supports the presence of institutional factors which hindered the career advancement of African Americans in higher education administration, specifically the presidency. It also identified those factors which were attributed to the career advancement of African Americans who were successful in obtaining presidential appointments. Research indicated mentoring, networking, professional affiliations, and administrative development opportunities as facilitating factors. This study identified and supports those factors which facilitated the career advancement of African Americans in higher education presidencies. It further provides an in-depth account of the career experiences and perceptions of four presidents at predominantly white four-year institutions, in their pursuit of the chief executive officer position. Qualitative case study methodology was used to describe the career progression and experiences of African American presidents at predominantly white four-year institutions. Thirty-three presidents were identified using multiple sources of information and listings for accuracy of information. One president agreed to pilot the study. An informational survey was used to gather preliminary information, and four respondents were chosen for case study interviews. The preliminary gathering of information was used to further develop the questions used during the interviewing process. Two of the interviews were conducted on-site and two were conducted via telephone. The results of this study support the existence of racial stereotyping and discrimination to varying degrees. It further suggests other factors which hinder the advancement of African Americans to the position of president. These factors included public opinion, lack of administrative opportunities, and lack of guidance and support during graduate education. While results of the study support the existence of institutional barriers to advancement, it further suggests that there are methods by which such obstacles can be overcome to the extent necessary to achieve individual career goals. Despite experiences perceived to be rooted in race and ethnicity, there are individuals who factored professional affiliations, mentoring, and administrative development opportunities into their career development plans for reaching the presidency, in addition to a variety of other skills and abilities. The four case study participants provided an in-depth examination of real life experiences, chronicling their experiences as African American administrators and their road to the higher education presidency. The case studies and research findings have the potential to positively impact institutional policy and programming as racial and ethnic diversity remain at the forefront of current issues in American higher education.

Recommended Citation

Robinson, Denise Pearson, "Black college and university presidents at predominantly White four-year institutions: Factors which hinder and facilitate advancement" (1996). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9717065.
https://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9717065

Share

COinS