Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education

First Advisor

Franklin A. Tuitt, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher

Third Advisor

M. Dores Cruz

Fourth Advisor

Jesús Treviño

Fifth Advisor

Frederique Chevillot


Campus architecture, Critical black feminism, Equal access, Portraiture, Predominantly white institution, Space and place


“Space, like language, is socially constructed; and like the syntax of language, the spatial arrangements of our buildings and communities reflect and reinforce the nature of gender, race, and class relations in society” (Weisman, 1992, p. 2). While institutions of higher education have granted physical access to African-American women over the last 150 years, their presence on American campuses has not been readily reflected in the physical design of the walls within which they learn. In examining the historical foundations of institutions of higher education, we cannot deny institutions consciously embed their values and basic assumptions within their physical manifestation (Bess & Dee, 2008). The architectural design of a campus reflects its history as well as its future aspirations (Markus & Cameron, 2002). In this way, the built educational environment has an important role in shaping and informing its community members of what education looks and feels like (Strange & Banning, 2001). The message of predominantly white institutions still remains founded in the voice and values of those in power. Therefore, in order for African-American women to succeed in the academy, they have adapted their racial and gender identities to fit the predominant culture (Fordham, 1993).

However, the hidden and unspoken messages that reflect the historical, social, and cultural context of American societal discrimination based on race and gender still remain in the built educational environment. In order to center the voices, experiences, and perceptions of African-American women within a predominantly white community, this study uses a critical black feminist lens. In addition, through an interdisciplinary conceptual model founded on the tenets of equal access federal policy, semiotics, organizational cultural transmission, and inclusive excellence, this study seeks to explore the dynamic that occurs between the built educational environment and its AfricanAmerican female students. Utilizing the portraiture methodology, nine women participated in the study through cognitive tours, individual interviews, self-reflective journaling, and photo documentation. The findings of the study depict a portrait of African-American women’s ability to reclaim the built educational environment of their predominantly white institution by physically and psychologically walking on its red brick path.

Publication Statement

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

Rights Holder

Stephanie L. Krusemark


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

401 p.


Higher education, African American studies, Architecture