Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Susan R. Boser, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Melanie Hildebrandt, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Veronica Watson, Ph.D.


This phenomenological study explores how African-American female administrators (individually and collectively) perceive the relationship between their identity and their leadership voice. The study focuses upon perceptions of 11 African-American female administrators who serve the 14 main campuses of the universities constituting the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Qualitative methodology encompasses exploring, discovering and interpreting the various social, political and economic spaces of identity and leadership voice among black female administrators. Data collection incorporated document review, individual face-to-face structured interviews, a focus group, observation and reflection. Study findings suggest that African-American female administrators (individually and collectively) perceive a symbiotic relationship between their identity (experience and actions) and their leadership voice (articulation of action to achieve an appropriate organizational outcome). A comparison of the study findings and the review of the literature resonate with the Afrocentric rhythm of three. Three broad themes emerged from the review of the literature: consciousness, centeredness and circumstance. Three broad themes represent the study findings: exercise of power, affirmation of values, and recognition of self-actualization. Further, findings concur with the literature related to cognitive dissonance. Regardless of the naming or framing, participants concluded that cognitive dissonance prevails within public higher education and influences leadership behavior. Suggesting why black female administrators sometimes move from their centers in order to accommodate dominant cultural standards, study participants cite control/power-over actions, self-sabotage, stereotyping, and white privilege. Study participants address the importance of knowing and managing self within leadership roles for public higher education. Importantly, the responses of black female administrators resonate with the literature citing personal generations of African Americans who have brought meaning, order and harmony to their lives despite identity and cultural denial. They cite family, faith and experience as guiding forces pushing them to honor Afrocentric directives to "keep lifting as we climb" and to "keep on keeping on."