Adjustment Experiences of African American Graduates of Historically Black Colleges or Universities Attending Graduate School at a Southern Predominantly White University

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


The purpose of this study was to examine the adjustment experiences of African American graduates of historically Black colleges or universities (HBCUs) attending graduate school at a Southern predominantly White university (PWU). A discussion of narratives and themes across participants provided information about the adjustment experiences of African American graduate students who transitioned from a university community where the student population was predominantly African American to one where African American students were the minority. This information can be utilized by both PWUs and HBCUs to develop resources that address issues related to adjustment for African American graduate students.

This study was phenomenological by design and focused on analyzing the adjustment experiences of 11 female African American graduate students attending a Southern PWU. Participants were between the ages of 22-28, graduated from 10 different HBCUs across 8 states, represented 8 different graduate majors and had been in graduate school an average of 3.5 semesters. Research methodology included participant interviews, demographic questionnaires and investigator field notes. Collected data were analyzed using a coding iteration strategy.

Descriptions of participant experiences were documented and ten prominent themes emerged from the data: support systems, negative emotionality, distrust, academic frustration, lack of African American presence, non-cohesive African American community, racial microaggressions, prior acquaintances and resilience.



PWU, HBCU, social adjustment, African American, personal-emotional adjustment