Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Teacher Education

Committee Member

Ethan Lowenstein, PhD, (Co-Chair)

Committee Member

Barbara Scheffer, EdD (Co-Chair)

Committee Member

Valerie Polakow, PhD

Committee Member

Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, PhD


This qualitative dissertation explores the lived experiences of successful African-American nurses who attended baccalaureate programs at predominantly White universities (PWUs). Only 5.4% of the national registered nurse workforce is identified as African American; yet African-American citizens account for approximately 12.9% of the United States' population, and 24% of all enrollments in nursing programs nationwide is composed of African-American students. Past nursing education research has almost exclusively focused on the deficits of African-American students. This dissertation study focuses on a gap in the literature because it addresses the strengths and attributes of those African-American students who succeed, thereby contributing to an anti-deficit achievement framework (Harper, 2010). The conceptual underpinnings of this research study include Critical Race Theory, Resilience Theory, Transitions Theory, and Jones and Shorter-Gooden's theory of "Shifting." This qualitative phenomenological study was completed with 11 participants from four different Midwestern universities. In-depth, face-to-face first and second interviews lasting 45 to 90 minutes were conducted using open-ended, semi-structured questions. Despite differences in location (urban versus suburban), Carnegie classifications (research versus teaching intensive), and student population (percentage of minority enrollment and student demographics/SES), the findings consistently reveal experiences of racism, discrimination, isolation, and "differentness," and evidence of resilience to overcome those experiences. Strategies for success were also consistent among participants, and include maintaining positive academic self-efficacy, key support people, determination to persist and succeed, deftly reading the environment, using both approach and avoidant style coping, effectively employing border crossing, biculturalism, and code switching, in addition to engaging in specific and study techniques.