Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership - Higher Education

Committee Member

Dr. Jane Clark Lindle, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Michelle L. Boettcher

Committee Member

Dr. Michael G. Godfrey

Committee Member

Dr. James W. Satterfield, Jr.


Students, faculty, staff, and surrounding communities form the environment, which knit the culture’s fabric of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Institutional culture and environment influence student engagement (Astin, 1984/1999); however, research rarely has focused on the engagement of student-athletes within HBCUs. I conceptualized this study of student-athlete leadership involvement phenomenon using two theories, student involvement theory (Astin, 1984/1999) and, given HBCUs social history (Abelman & Dalessandro, 2009; Albritton, 2012; Palmer, Arroyo, & Maramba, 2018), Tierney’s (1998) organizational culture theory. For this study, I selected a HBCU with National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I status to investigate the phenomena of student-athletes’ organizational involvement and leadership experiences.

This study’s purpose was two-fold: (1) to understand the experiences of college student-athletes currently involved in NCAA, Division I sports and campus student organizations; and (2) to investigate the athletes’ experiences within a specific HBCU setting and athletic culture. I applied interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA; Smith & Osborn, 2008, 2015) as this method involves phenomena combining place and lived experiences (Murray & Holmes, 2014). The use of IPA helped in my double-hermeneutic interpretation of 10 student-athletes’ experiences as they engaged in campus leadership roles. I used campus artifacts and interviews for these participants’ explanations of their experiences. My use of IPA focused on finding the similarities among their reported lived experiences.

Five themes emerged through recursive analysis: (a) Leading by Example, (b) Not Just an Athlete, (c) Tough Decisions, (d) Embracing Faith, and (e) HBCU Pride and Appreciation. These student-athletes built networks outside of their respective sport teams through their participation in various campus organizations. Furthermore, nine of the 10 students connected with the HBCU culture and the leadership opportunities it forged for them. As student-athlete campus leaders, these participants desired to lead by example and recounted tough decisions to go beyond perceptions of each as just an athlete. Through these experiences, I generated meaning for a definition of student-athlete campus leader and expanded understanding of the HBCU setting in illuminating that definition.

Included in

Education Commons



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