Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Leadership and Policies


Educational Administration

First Advisor

Katherine Chaddock


The purpose of this study was to explore the academic experiences of highly successful African-American male graduates of small, private liberal arts colleges using a qualitative approach. Fourteen highly successful alumni from selective, private colleges were purposefully selected for the study, including seven African-American males and seven white males. In semi-structured interviews, participants retrospectively described positive experiences they associated with their academic success in college. The study observed the importance of the small college in creating a deep sense of connection across the campus, empowering students to take risks that helped them succeed academically. This research also explored the idea that African-American participants used an "instrumentalist" approach to their undergraduate education. Though the study identified significant common ground between the two participant groups, several key differences emerged. African-American students stressed the importance of religious faith, open-mindedness, and campus organizations in helping them succeed academically. White students described the importance of making "mechanical" academic adjustments, such as improving study habits and developing organizational skills. The study also identified ground for future research around academic success in the small private college environment.


© 2013, Ryan Andrew Johnson