A Black Sense of Place: Deep Mapping the Career Journeys of Black Mid-level Student Affairs Administrators

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Virginia Tech

Mid-level administrators are underrepresented within the literature despite years of research on university administration. Moreover, there is significantly less knowledge about administrators of color in higher education. While the reason for their decreased prominence is unclear, Jackson and O'Callaghan (2009) offer that people of color were historically not part of the leadership landscape as an explanation for the minimal formal analysis and categorization of them and their work. Despite the surge of research interest in Black administrators, there still remains limited knowledge about who they are, their professional lives, and their overall lived experiences. As such, the purpose of this study was to understand the career journeys and the experiences of Black mid-level student affairs administrators (BMLSAAs) as they navigate transitions and advancements within their careers.

Guided by a conceptual framework using tenets of Critical Race Theory, Space and Place, and the Great Migration, this study investigated the following questions: (1) What are the career migration patterns of BMLSAAs? (2) What role does race and racism combined with location play in the career journeys of BMLSAAs? (3) How do BMLSAAs make meaning of their career journey and their experiences? I employed a qualitatively driven multimethod research design consisting of narrative inquiry and a Critical Race Spatial Analysis (CRSA) with a sample size of 11 BMLSAAs across the U.S. Data sources included a demographic questionnaire, documents (i.e., current resume/curriculum vitae), a career journey map, and a semi-structured interview.

Findings provided insight into the racialized engagement of spatial features throughout participants' career journeys; on the campuses where they worked and the geographic regions where participants have lived. Ultimately findings expressed what it is like being Black not only in a mid-level student affairs administrative role, but also traversing one's career as a Black person. Additionally, this study has implications for research, practice, and policy.

Student Affairs Administration, Black professionals, Mid-level Manager, Career Journey, Career Development, Deep Mapping