Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Nyunt, Gudren

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling and Higher Education (CAHE)


This dissertation examined the experiences of women of color (WOC), defined as African American and Latina women for this study, as they pursued a degree in a criminal justice program at a Midwest community college. Utilizing Schlossberg’s transition theory, the qualitative case study sought to learn how WOC experience the transition to being students in a criminal justice program and the support and strategies they utilized to adjust to and navigate it. The study sought to fill a gap in the literature on WOC seeking degrees in criminal justice programs. The study also sought to learn more about student experience and how they transition into and through a criminal justice program. Nine participants were interviewed at a Midwestern community college located outside a major metropolitan area. Four primary themes emerged from the interview data analysis. First, participants’ extended networks shared concerns about their decision to go into law enforcement but also tried to provide support. Second, intersecting systems of oppression complicated participants’ transition to college as they held additional marginalized identities (e.g., first generation, low socioeconomic status, mother, employee). Third, participants felt like outsiders in their programs, so they looked for peer support from other WOC. Fourth, participants appreciated supportive faculty and resources provided by the institution but were often unaware of what the college offered. The study indicates that community college criminal justice programs should strive to foster a better understanding of the transitions experienced by WOC and provide better support to them. Community colleges should attempt to minimize barriers faced by WOC while participating in a criminal justice program and provide them information about how to use supports to overcome barriers.


116 pages




Northern Illinois University

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