Date of Conferral
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
The United States economy has an accelerating demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related degrees and programs that makes it essential for members of minority populations to achieve degrees in these fields. African American women are underrepresented in STEM fields, suggesting a need to better understand their development and needs while attending community college. This hermeneutical, phenomenological research study investigated the lived experiences and perspectives of African American women enrolled in STEM majors at community colleges. The conceptual framework used to interpret data for this study was derived from Maslow, Erikson, and Rogers's humanist theories of social learning, and from Tinto, Lerner, Gilligan, and Noddings's action theories of selection, optimization, and compensation. Seven African American women from 2 different community colleges in the southern region of the United States were interviewed. Each described her lived experiences and educational encounters and how these led to persistence, transfer, or degree completion. Data were analyzed by identifying and comparing emergent themes. Three themes emerged: faculty involvement was vital to their wellbeing and productivity, mentors were integral for their support, and college partnerships with 4-year institutions helped these women meet their goals. This study's findings are designed to provide local and state community college administrators with information related to investment in and the importance of institutional encouragement, faculty involvement, and student mentorship to increase and sustain participation in STEM-related fields, as well as to better prepare underrepresented students for STEM careers.