supporting research and practice focused on the academic and psychosocial experiences of historically marginalized doctoral students

18 Ways to Support Historically Marginalized Doctoral Students



In our efforts towards increasing awareness about the historically marginalized experience, our first blog post of the year provides 18 ways to build support capacity for supporting academic success and degree completion for graduate students.  These recommendations are drawn from theoretical and practical guidance from scholarly communities committed to creating environments where students matter.  Socialization and student experience, scholarly development, and finance are critical in the journey towards doctoral degree completion.  We ask that you consider how to incorporate these ideas into your intellectual communities.

Socialization/Student Experience

  1. Honor students’ developing and emerging belief systems connected to a doctoral student research agenda.
  2. Honor student identities theoretically and practically.
  3. Cultivate leadership and support systems that prioritize cultural wealth and appreciation.
  4. Discover opportunities in alignment with students’ cultural, practical and theoretical interests.
  5. Provide opportunity for meaningful engagement.
  6. Prioritize cultural wealth in advisement and mentorship practices.

Scholarly Development

  1. Implement culturally relevant teaching and administrative policies and practices based on scholarship that centers the historically marginalized student experience.
  2. Create collaborative writing opportunities for historically marginalized doctoral students that support reflection on their own experiences.
  3. Embrace culturally relevant frameworks when writing about historically marginalized doctoral experiences.
  4. Strengthen support and participation in peer-reviewed journal articles focused on culturally relevant research.
  5. Invest in published resources and professional associations fees and funding support efforts.
  6. Cite scholarship written by and for historically marginalized communities.


  1. Minimize financial burden of lifestyle expenses.
  2. Develop institutional partnerships that facilitate fully-funded academic opportunities focused on recruitment and retention.
  3. Work with policymakers to advocate for policies that strengthen graduate students’ financial wealth positionality.
  4. Identify community-based programs and opportunities for graduate student grants and scholarships.
  5. Increase opportunities for assistantships and scholarships.
  6. Create/provide activities that involve students’ families and extended support network.

Recommended Reading on the Black/African American Doctoral Experience – July 2017

If you are conducting/citing research on the Black/African American doctoral experience consider the following abbreviated list of recommended sources:

African Americans and the doctoral experience: Implications for policy


Am I going crazy? A critical race analysis of doctoral education


Understanding race in doctoral student socialization


On doctoral student development: Exploring faculty mentoring in the shaping of African American doctoral student success


Extending Bell’s concept of interest convergence: A framework for understanding the African American doctoral student experience


Journey to Ph.D.: How to navigate the process as African Americans


The impact of race and gender on graduate school socialization, satisfaction with doctoral study, and commitment to degree completion


Employing a Black feminist approach to doctoral advising: Preparing Black women for the professoriate


Cross cultural mentoring in institutional contexts


“Mom made me do it”: The role of family in African Americans’ decisions to enroll in doctoral education


Black graduate education at historically Black colleges and universities







HBCU Music/Performance Programs for Undergraduate and Graduate Study

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June is Black Music Appreciation Month and today we recognize the contribution of programs designed to support degree completion in music for historically marginalized students.  Historically Black colleges and universities provide our nation with rich academic experiences in music, performance, and theater education for both undergraduate and graduate students.  Programs offer a combination of voice and instrumental pedagogies with some courses geared toward education and business in the industry.  Many HBCU music programs are members of the National Association of Schools of Music which establishes guidelines for credentials in music education and emphasized their engagement in scholarly musical practice and endeavors.   Graduates from these programs are prepared to enter music and performance professions with a variety of skills making them competitive in the market including:  teaching, composing, recording, and management among many other artistic competencies. Below are six (6) HBCUs with comprehensive academic programs; each aligned with unique institutional missions and programmatic features that honor Black/African American musical traditions and culture.

Alabama A & M University offers programs focused on voice and instrumental performance with emphasis on piano pedagogy.   It’s also home to the “Showband of the South.”

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Florida A & M University is known for two programs in music:  1) Bachelors of Science degree in Music Industry, and 2) Bachelors of Science degree in Education.

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Hampton University offers a numerous scholarships for students interested in music.  It also provides a summer program for students in grades 4-9; establishing pathways for mentorship and recruitment of students into their four-year collegiate programs.

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Morgan State University offers music education as Maryland’s preeminent public urban research university.  One interesting profession noted was in the field of arts management.

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North Carolina Central University is known for its ensemble leadership in music.  Its choir, Big Band, and guitar ensembles are prominently featured as national treasures.

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Prairie View University emphasizes its teaching program in music for EC-12 in the state of Texas.  The program also encourages degree attainment beyond the baccalaureate toward preparation for advanced degrees.

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Five Resources Related to Black Motherhood and the Doctoral Experience

In recognition of Mother’s Day 2017, here are five (5) sources to consider about the pursuit of the doctorate and motherhood.  These articles span a wide array of topics and address various aspects of the doctoral student journey and beyond.  They focus on: recognition of mothers who value education in their families; the challenges associated with motherhood while enrolled in academic study; finding sources to support degree attainment; academic networks that support mothers and their educational experiences, and the experience of motherhood as faculty.   We encourage you to share this information with anyone contemplating motherhood and the doctoral process.   Also, consider the “Women: Growing Fields” data by the Survey of Earned Doctorates (2015) for degree completion trends by discipline; highlighting potential for research and practice opportunities that emphasize the physical sciences and engineering fields.

1. Happy Mother’s Day: A Tribute to Black Moms Who Use Education as Their North Star

2. The Importance of a Sister Circle for Black Women Pursuing the PhD #SADocsofColor

3. On the Burdens Carried by Single Black Mothers Enrolled in Ph.D. Programs

4. 10 Scholarships for Women Returning to College

5. Motherhood After Tenure:  Listening to Black “Mama, PhDs”

Women:  Growing Fields (Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2015):

“The fastest growing subfields of doctoral study for women over the past decade have been within the physical sciences (led by computer and information sciences) and engineering (led by materials science engineering).”  (Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2015).



Celebrating Black Images of Commencement

There was a time in the United States when Black/African Americans/Africans did not attend colleges and universities nor participate commencement ceremonies.  This week’s blog post celebrates eight (8) photos of commencement focused on Black/African American/African images.  They are a source of great inspiration for graduates all over our country and particularly for historically marginalized students whose experience may often lack the presence of these images.

  1.  Maya Angelou


2. Oprah Winfrey

2013 Harvard University Commencement

3.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


4. Ruth Simmons


5. Michelle Obama


6. Barack Obama


7.  Laverne Cox


8. Denzel Washington






#BlackDocsChat: Why Conducting Research on the Historically Marginalized Doctoral Experience is Important

On Tuesday, April 25, 2017, #BlackDoctoratesMatter held a Twitter Conversation with for its community to discuss the importance of conducting research on historically marginalized doctoral students.  Two scholars on the topic joined the conversation to share their research perspectives.  Dr. Marco Barker, Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Westminster College whose research primarily addresses the cross-race advising of Black doctoral students. And, Dr. Carmen McCallum’s work focuses on the prior socialization experiences of African American doctoral students and the decision-making process associated with transitions into doctoral study.  These scholars shared both theoretical and practical insights about how research on the Black/African American doctoral experience supports the role and value of racial and cultural contributions in our educational and community.  In this week’s blog post we share questions and responses that underscore the relevance of this work.  In the future we look forward to hosting additional Twitter Chats, and live social media discussions on these issues.

Why is research about the Black Doctoral Experience important?  

What are the top three priorities in your research?

 What can the Black community learn/gain from research on the Black doctoral experience?

What are 3 important “must-have” scholarly references for research on the Black Doctoral Experience?


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Written by:  Dr. Pamela Felder, Ph.D., Founder of #BlackDoctoratesMatter

@pamelafelder @BlackDocsMatter, #BlackDocsChat

Black/African American Music Leaders with Honorary Doctorates

This week’s blog post highlights Black/African American music leaders who have received honorary doctorate degrees for professional achievements and service to their disciplines.  Our list includes videos of ceremonies where they received their degrees and shared remarks.  For more information about celebrities who received honorary doctoral degrees, check out this list.

Aretha Franklin

Patti La Belle

B.B. King

Wynton Marsalis

Kanye West

Stevie Wonder