Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Tara L. Parker

Second Advisor

Cheryl Ching

Third Advisor

Kelli J. Armstrong


For higher education to be responsive to the changing national and student population, its leadership must be “reflective of the world around it, (which) will be key to managing the challenges of today and the unknown challenges of tomorrow” (American Council on Education, 2017, para. 4). Unfortunately, despite the increasing diversity of the student body, college presidents remain primarily white; therefore, maintaining a limited view of leadership. Centering the experiences of Black women as a “strength to build, develop, and perform leadership” (Lloyd-Jones, 2016, p. 66), and understanding their ways of knowing, is an important step for postsecondary education in meeting these challenges. Therefore, a more nuanced examination of Black women college and university presidents is needed.

The purpose of this study was to understand how the leadership practice of Black women college presidents at four-year PWIs was informed by their lived experiences. Centering the voices of participants, critical race grounded theory as a methodological framework was used to inform participant selection, and the data collection and analysis processes. Nine semi-structured interviews with Black women college presidents at four-year PWIs was conducted. Line by line coding was used to analyze the data, which resulted in the emergence of seven themes. The seven themes of the study’s findings and Black feminist epistemology, developed by Collins (2000) led to the development of a new leadership model, authentic black feminist leadership.

ABFL provides Black women, researchers, and the field of higher education with a more applicable framework that recognizes the influence of race and gender on as well as describes Black women’s ways of leading. Unlike other leadership models ABFL does not center whiteness or masculinity, instead this model highlights the different dimensions that influence how and why Black women lead. A model created for Black women, by Black women, ABFL describes the distinct ways they lead within an environment that is not representative nor reflective of who they are. In addition, this model illuminates the factors that inspired Black women to become altruistic and community focused leaders. As a leadership model.