Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Maureen Walsh


Low African American male student graduation rates in the United States have been a concern for higher education administrators, and more strategies to address their challenges are needed. This basic qualitative study addressed the experiences of African American male students who persisted to graduation at a predominantly Black institution in the northeastern United States. The institutional departure model and goal setting theory formed the conceptual framework for the study. Nine African American males who graduated from the institution described their experiences with academic goal setting and a graduation agenda, through one-on-one interviews. Key findings included the challenges of financial concerns, making supportive connections, and being engaged with university life. Goal setting and pursuing a graduation agenda were supported by interacting regularly with diverse faculty and staff, having work study positions, and participating in athletics and student organizations. Moments of individual connection and support from staff and faculty members helped students pursue academic goals. The project constructed to address the gaps is a 3-day professional development curriculum. Professional development is necessary to ensure all members of campus are focused on the orientation of first year students and their families to support retention through graduation. Academic agenda and goal setting can and should occur across campus and in multiple settings. Positive social change implications of the project include increased stakeholder awareness of supports necessary to retain African American male students in predominantly Black institutions.