Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Claude M. Hurlbert, D.A.

Second Advisor

David B. Downing, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gloria G. Park, Ph.D.


This research project explores the lived experiences of African American academic professionals in the field of Rhetoric and Composition. The goal of the study is to examine how career and relative life experiences have influenced these African American scholars' interests in rhetoric and composition and their subsequent development as professionals in the field. This research focuses on those scholars' early life histories and how those aspects influenced their perceptions of themselves as academic professionals. In addition, the research examines the ways in which social and cultural frameworks, including the context of the professoriate, and also, aspects of race and racial identity development, affects how African Americans define their roles as academic professionals. The study builds on research by Bizzaro (2002) which utilizes entrance-to-the-profession narratives and storytelling to describe the experiences of major theorists and junior and minority faculty in their attempts to become professionals. This study also builds on Carter's (2002) research concerning the representation of African American scholars in composition and rhetoric as well as research by former Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) graduate Okawa (2002) on the mentoring experiences of minority scholars in the field. The study also utilizes aspects of a professional studies Harvard-based research study by Bell and Nkomo (2001) which focuses on the career struggles of black and white women in business in regard to their attempts to develop professional identities. Bell and Nkomo (2001) use the life history interview to ask black and white women about their career experiences and how background, family history, race, and career experiences affect professional identity construction. Prior to this study, I completed an autoethnography about my personal development and how cultural identity has the possibility to affect my development of a professional identity.