Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education

First Advisor

Franklin A. Tuitt, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Elinor Katz

Third Advisor

Michele Hanna

Fourth Advisor

Roger E. Salters


African American, Doctoral, Education, Higher, Students, Trust


This phenomenological research study explores whether trust influences the experiences of African American students, particularly those in doctoral programs at predominantly White institutions. Recent studies suggest that colleges and universities can benefit in several ways by building and maintaining student trust. However, the body of research typically provides a general understanding of the role and benefits of student trust in the academic arena through the eyes of White students only. Very few studies examine the benefits of student trust for a diverse population, and even fewer address African American students enrolled in predominantly White doctoral programs.

This research provides an alternative perspective of trust by identifying factors specific to African American doctoral students enrolled at the University of Denver using a conceptual framework that examines trust, invisibility and other factors. The primary data was obtained through separate in-depth interviews with eight African American doctoral student participants who shared their experiences, thoughts and perceptions of trust at this predominantly White institution. Narratives of four of the participants highlight their reflections and academic encounters in a racial environment.

Using Creswell's (2007) approach to phenomenological analysis, four key themes emerged from the data as essential elements to establish a sense of trust: a strong sense of Blackness, a support system, the level of visibility and the relationship with the higher education institution. Findings from this research study suggest that race remains a salient factor for the study participants, even though a climate of inclusiveness in the classroom and strong support from faculty were described by most. However, on-going encounters of racial slights remain prevalent today for several of the students in this study.

Study results offer implications and recommendations for academic professionals and leaders that suggest a re-examination of efforts to recruit and retain African American faculty, staff and students, as well as to create inclusive excellence through leadership at every level of the institution.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Zelda M. DeBoyes


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

206 p.


Higher education