Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Teacher Education

Committee Member

Paul J. Ramsey, PhD.

Committee Member

Wendy Burke, PhD.

Committee Member

Calvin Phillips, EdD.

Committee Member

Christopher Robbins, PhD.


There is something going on with Black men in America who go to college. As university enrollment has become more diverse with all ethnic and economic groups attending in greater numbers, as Black women are graduating at unprecedented rates, as postsecondary education becomes an increasingly significant employment requirement, the persistence to graduation rate of Black men as a group is among the lowest. Historically White institutions of higher education seek to ensure academic success and increase 4-6 year graduation rates for all students. Perhaps Black men can inform the process and lift everyone with their knowledge. This is a qualitative inquiry with 21 Black men between the ages of 18 and 25 years, most of them from the city of Detroit, who have successfully completed at least a year of college at one of three historically White universities. Although all three selected schools are located in Southeastern Michigan, they are of markedly different size and situation. The research framework is strength based, an approach acknowledged as positive and pointed. The conceptual underpinnings for analysis include liminality, critical race theory, and identity development. Everyone crosses multiple thresholds throughout life in changing role or residence, age or stage, belief or bias. The time between high school completion and successful college performance is one of these transitional and transformative periods that requires the acquisition or enhancement of associated skills. The co-researchers shared what was relevant to their decision to attend college and how they selected where to go, their academic performance and achievement, their personal and social adjustments, and how they endure and persist towards the goal of graduation. Their reflections reveal the relevance of K12 focus on and preparation for postsecondary education, the significance of institutional support in college, and the importance of caring and community at all levels.