Date of Award

Fall 1-5-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Renee' Schwartz

Second Advisor

Christine Thomas

Third Advisor

Suazette Reid Mooring

Fourth Advisor

Natalie S. King

Abstract

Multiple studies speak directly to the unique challenges women of color face in college learning spaces due to their intersectionality which include gender and racial discrimination, deficit-based thinking about their abilities, and negative stereotyping. In these studies, Black women are typically not disaggregated from other women of color so the results reflect the experiences of all women who do not identify as White, which includes Asian, American Indian, and Latina women. Intersectionality theories and Black Feminist Thought illustrate the ways Black women in the U.S. have created a collective, specialized knowledge based on their unique backgrounds, cultural traditions, perspectives and experiences that result specifically from the intersection of their Blackness and womanness. Additionally, most of the studies that examine the realities of women of color in science learning spaces focus on high-achieving or STEM majors. However, many non-STEM majors must successfully navigate the terrain of science courses to earn an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree as well. The literature is clear regarding the benefits of obtaining a degree in higher education and the impact of this degree on future salary expectations and on an individual's quality of life.

This research used a critical race theory perspective to explore the experiences of Black women in college science learning spaces who are not STEM majors. Results indicate that, due to race-based differential treatment, the women perceived science professors as obstacles to entry into the allied health field. Women who did not have to take specific science courses as part of their degree requirements did not experience science faculty in the same way. The findings from the study highlight the need for faculty acknowledgement and institutional recognition that racism inside college science learning spaces negatively affects the science learning trajectory of some Black women. The findings from the study may serve as a springboard to critical self-examination of science faculty regarding how they think about race and racism inside their classrooms.

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