Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Tara L. Parker

Second Advisor

Samuel Museus

Third Advisor

Darnell Cole


Critics contend college graduates are not prepared to work in a global society. In response, higher education leaders identify the need to transform curriculum and teaching techniques (Bikson & Law, 1994). African American faculty are more likely than their White colleagues to employ teaching strategies that introduce students to diversity coursework and expose them to knowledge about race and ethnicity in the classroom, which positively affects students' openness to diversity (Pascarella, Edison, Nora, Hagedorn, & Terenzini, 1996) and prepares them to work in a global society. This qualitative study, grounded in phenomenological methodology, used ethnic (Phinney, 1996) and White (Helms, 1990) identity development theory to understand how students experienced and made meaning from their interactions with African American faculty within the context of the classroom. Data collection consisted of 15 classroom observations and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 22 student participants representing different races and ethnicities. This study occurred at a comprehensive public university in the Northeast. Data included classroom observations and interviews with students. Data were analyzed to determine "what" and "how" students experience their interactions with faculty, and how their perceptions of faculty related to their own racial and ethnic identity development.

Four themes illustrate the ways racial or ethnic identity development influence student-African American faculty interactions. Students at different levels of identity development perceived the faculty and experienced their interactions with the faculty, differently. Most students felt faculty treated them with respect, genuinely cared about them, and displayed a commitment to their success. Students felt faculty created a learning environment that made them feel important in the educational process. Students also indicated their interactions with African American faculty provided them the opportunity to examine or re-examine their beliefs, values and perspectives. Some students also however displayed challenging or disrespectful behavior in the classroom. White students were the most overt and blatant in their behavior. Implications for institutional policy and practice, to create engaging educational environments for students, and create supportive environments for African American faculty, and their colleagues of color, are offered.