Date of Award

Spring 2-17-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Philip Pendley

Second Advisor

Dr. Felicia Haecker

Third Advisor

Dr. Lafaye Platter


Purpose: The purpose of this heuristic phenomenological study is to describe and understand the lived experiences of African American women who are enrolled in or graduated from a doctoral program and have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in regards to the supports received and barriers experienced in their life journey toward enrolling in a doctoral program. Methodology: The methodology used for this study was a heuristic phenomenological approach which explored the factors of supports received and barriers experienced during the childhood of African American women who experienced ACEs and still pursued a doctorate degree. The study revealed the commonalities among these women. Findings: The results of this study show that interpersonal supports assisted individuals with emotional support and guidance. Participants referenced family, mentors, and peers as interpersonal supports they experienced on their journey to enrolling in a doctoral program. It was also found that institutional support assists people in meeting individual needs. All five participants described faith communities as institutions that provided them with support in meeting needs, including information that they needed to attain their educational goals. Participants reported that some family members either actively or passively obstructed their ability to meet their basic needs. Four out of five participants experienced logistical or administrative barriers to accessing social services, such as transportation and administrative requirements that were difficult to meet. Conclusions: According to the results of this study, it is concluded that interpersonal support is critical for the overall physical and emotional support for African American women with ACEs. Such relationships give these women a purpose in life which motivates them to further their education through doctoral programs. Faith communities are an important part of the support necessary to overcome the impact of ACEs. They provide institutional support that assists individuals in meeting their individual needs. Recommendations: Based upon this conclusion, it is recommended that any effort to address the impact of ACEs on African American Women pursuing higher education should seek out support from faith-based groups.