Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gyant, LaVerne

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


There is an absence of research addressing Women of Color leaders in the academy, specifically relative to the influence of their cultural identity on their leadership styles. The purpose of this study is to understand the lived experience of Women of Color leaders who served in cabinet-level positions at an urban midwestern multi-campus comprehensive community college system, how their leader persona impacted their decisions and policy-making as Women of Color leaders, and their perception of their impact and legacy in the mentoring of the next generation of Women of Color leaders within community colleges. This study is necessary to increase the understanding and value that Women of Color leaders embody as they increasingly enter and contribute to shaping higher education institutions, particularly community colleges.

This phenomenological study documents the Womanist influence in decision making and policy development at an urban community college and offers practices for Women of Color in leadership to operate as change agents within institutions. Utilizing Critical Race Theory and Womanism as the analytical lens, the study documents the lived experience of Women of Color leaders, granting them visibility, legitimization, and affirmation of their legacy influencing decisions positively impacting institutional human resources, policies and procedures, and ultimately supporting the success of people of color.

Through purposeful sampling, 18 Women of Color leaders qualified to be interviewed. Participants responded to 16 questions matched to the four research questions. Findings revealed six overarching themes impacting their leadership experience, influencing their decision making, mentoring received or rendered, and a compilation of detailed enduring programmatic legacies at the institution.

The concept of ‘Womanist Educator’ is introduced, defined, and advanced as a result of this study. The confluence of historical, intellectual, and cultural experiences and social constructs shaped Women of Color leadership, resulting in Women of Color in higher education bearing a responsibility to become the embodiment of Womanist Educators. Womanist Educators balance their service as institutional leaders with service as advocates for the ethnic/racial community aligned with their cultural identity and become educational activists for equity relative to institutional resources, policies, personnel, and curriculum to champion diversity and inclusiveness within institutions and organizations.


161 pages




Northern Illinois University

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