Within this multiple-case study, we explored the experiences of Black women in senior student affairs officer (SSAO) positions at four-year historically white institutions (HWIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States. We used Black feminist thought and representational bureaucracy to theoretically frame the study. Participants included SSAOs representing three HWIs and two HBCUs. Four central themes—often expressed within experiences of marginalization—emerged across the cases: 1) I Have a Right to Be Here; 2) Creating Networks; 3) No Straight Line to the Top; and 4) I’m Thinking about the Black Girls Coming Behind Me. We conclude the study with a discussion, implications for practice, and recommendations for ongoing research.


Black women, lived experiences, multiple-case study, senior student affairs officer, student affairs

Author Bio(s)

Tamekka L. Cornelius, Ph.D., is a diversity, inclusion and belonging professional in Louisville, KY, USA. cornelius.tamekka@gmail.com

Donald “DJ” Mitchell, Jr., Ph.D., is vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at Molloy University in Rockville Centre, NY. dmitchell1@molloy.edu


We would like to acknowledge the present article was derived from the dissertation of Tamekka L. Cornelius. We would also like to thank Jakia Marie, Ph.D., who assisted us in preparing this article.

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