Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Educational Leadership

Committee Member

Dr. Tony W. Cawthon, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Pamela A. Havice

Committee Member

Dr. Robin J. Phelphs-Ward

Committee Member

Dr. James W. Satterfield


This study examined how Black master's students processed facts, information, and awareness about graduate school. The objective was to determine the processes Black master's students followed when they decided to attend graduate school. To accomplish this objective, I examined the main factors that led Black students to pursue graduate school and the critical moments that influenced their ultimate decisions to apply. Data from students provided the basis for constructing a theory. This study included a constructivist grounded theory methodology approach and an emergent, participant-generated method called photo-elicitation. The constructivist grounded theory methodology approach can construct theory from the data. The photo-elicitation method approach can sharpen memory, support self-reflection, and stimulate interview responses to generate the data (Clark-Ibáñez, 2004; Harper, 2002). Participants for this study took photographs of how they decided to attend graduate school and then discussed the photographs in a photo-elicitation interview. Data analysis involved Charmaz's (2009) four cycles of coding: (a) open coding, (b) axial coding, (c) selective coding, and (d) theoretical coding. The developed conceptual framework provided the analytic underpinning for the four cycles of coding (Charmaz, 2009). Findings from eight participants in this study revealed five major themes about how the Black master's students gathered facts, information, and awareness about graduate school. The five theoretical themes that emerged were (a) Mental Stimulations, (b) Experiential Experiences, (c) Community Support, (d) Life Strategies, and (d) Identity Influences. The findings of this study have implications for practical applications towards administrators and policymakers in higher education that recruit and attract Black students into graduate school. Additionally, there are implications for researchers that utilize photo-elicitation in their research studies and other emergent methods. Findings address repeated calls for Black master's students to offer literature towards understanding how the process works for Black students to enroll in graduate school.