All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Loucrecia Collins

Advisory Committee Members

Tondra Loder-Jackson

Evelyn Nettles

Tonya Perry

Michele Sims

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


Abstract The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore and gain an in-depth understanding of the personal, professional, and sociocultural experiences of African American female school leaders in suburban school districts. These school districts were identified as suburban locations because of low to no student poverty, stellar performances on standardized tests, high graduation and college going rates, and champion academic and athletic team honors. This qualitative study employed a phenomenological design to allow the researcher the opportunity to investigate and gather data through open-ended, face-to-face, one hour interviews with study participants. Three theoretical frameworks--critical race theory, racial identity development theory, and black feminist thought theory--were utilized for this qualitative study. Ten African American female school leaders serving as assistant principals, principals, and central office administrators from four suburban school districts in the southeast region of the United States were involved in this study. Each district was located only miles from a major metropolis. After data analysis, seven themes emerged from the thick, rich descriptions provided through study participants' interviews. The seven themes were (a) race and gender in school leadership, (b) caring for family and self, (c) resilience and spirituality, (d) education and upward mobility, (e) mentoring and networking, (f) effective communication and positive working relationships, and (g) child advocacy and community partnerships. Study participants had a multiplicity of positive and challenging experiences as African American female school leaders. They were resilient and spiritually-grounded which aided them in answering the call to leadership. The study of the lived personal, professional, and sociocultural experiences of African American female suburban school leaders may be helpful to educational researchers and practitioners, colleges and universities, boards of education, school districts, schools, and all African American females who aspire to become school leaders in suburban school districts. By exploring the lives of these school leaders, greater insights may be gained to open the door to this underrepresented population. This research may be valuable for professional development planning and educational leadership programs with the objective of recruiting and retaining more African American female suburban school leaders.

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