Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Theresa Saunders, Ed.D.

Committee Member

James E. Berry, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Malverne C. Winborne, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Beth Kubitskey, Ph.D.


There has been a great deal of scholarly research over the past 50 years concerning the disparities in education for minority populations. Research relating to African American males specifically has increased over the past decade, highlighting the disparities and plight of Black males in kindergarten through postsecondary education. Additionally, the body of literature regarding this population of scholars has been from a deficit model. This is a phenomenological study that investigates the lived experiences of five first-generation African American male students during their freshman year at a rural, mid-Atlantic predominately White institution (PWI). The study specifically sought to learn about the lived experiences of first-generation African American males who completed their freshman year of college at a rural, mid-Atlantic PWI in regard to their transition to the college environment as it relates to their level of preparedness, adjustment, persistence, support systems, and racial experiences on campus. African American male theory (AAMT) was the theoretical framework that was used as the lens to study the experiences of the Black male study participants. A qualitative methodology was used, with counter-storytelling to allow the study participants to tell their stories in their voices. Purposeful sampling was used to identify the study participants. Individual interviews and a focus group were conducted to gather the rich, thick descriptions of the participants’ experiences. Thematic analysis was used to identify the seven themes that emerged from the data: preparedness for college, adjustment, motivation and persistence, challenges, support systems, social integration, and microaggressions. The themes were analyzed through the lens of the six tenets of AAMT to show how they intersected. Findings showed that the five study participants had positive experiences that contradicted the extant body of literature, except for racially related issues and microaggressions. Racial issues and microaggressions that were described by the students continue to exist at PWIs. Educational leaders need to work toward eradicating such issues as students of color continue to enroll at their institutions. Additional research is recommended to determine if the experiences described by the study participants are consistent at similar PWIs.