August 29, 2017
Experiences of Black Alumnae from PWIs: Did they Thrive?
By Megan Segoshi, Lauren Adams, Bridget Turner Kelly, and Alyscia Raines
Actor, writer, and creator of HBO’s hit series Insecure, Issa Rae recently stated in an interview with the Guardian, “So much of the media presents blackness as fierce and flawless. I’m not.” Her exclamation counters the pervasive dominant narratives about Black women that persist both in the media and in academia. As four women of color with diverse experiences within the field of higher education, we have all experienced the dissonance between our actual experiences versus the stories being told about us. Although it is true that Black women are graduating from college at higher rates than ever before, and quickly outpacing Black men on that same metric, these rising numbers tell only part of a larger, and much more complicated narrative.
After interviewing sixteen Black female college graduates about their experiences in higher education, it became clear that for most of them, success was not defined by receiving a degree. Even though they were primarily high academic achievers, it was clear that there was more to their story that was not being told; perhaps in service of perpetuating the narrative of strong, independent Black women who do not need or do not want support in their academic journeys. Many of them shared stories of discrimination based on their multiple identities, struggles with mental health, and financial barriers to attending college. This article serves as a counternarrative, dispelling myths about the “successful” Black woman. As we present the Black alumnae’s stories, we offer recommendations in the article on how higher education professionals may better support, understand, and recognize the diverse experiences of Black women college students.
This study qualitatively examines 16 Black alumnae’s college experiences from a Black feminist thought intersectional lens. Findings reveal they graduated but did not thrive in the ways described by the thriving quotient and point to ways institutions can measure success not by graduation alone but by all students leaving college with wholeness, well-being, and self-efficacy.
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