Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Education

First Advisor

Jill Cabrera

Second Advisor

Douglas Davis

Third Advisor

Angus Mungal


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



The purpose of this study is to explore student agency’s impact on the lives of successful African American adult students who once identified as being disadvantaged. The opportunity gap, formerly recognized as the achievement gap, continues to negatively affect low socioeconomic status African American students with limited social and cultural capital resources. There are unlimited studies which identify factors that fuel the opportunity gap (Ladson-Billings, 2006). However, many of these studies neglect to incorporate the voices of the stakeholders in which social and economic disparities impact the greatest (Anderson, 2018). This qualitative phenomenological study aims to address this research gap through using semi structured interviews to analyze the perceptions of seven African American adult students who are matriculating through University of Mississippi’s School of Education to discover how these students utilized agency or either components of agency to attain academic and/or professional success. The findings of this study were obtained through identifying and grouping thematic similarities and patterns which described how these students were able to navigate life and overcome “obstacles to their academic and professional success” (Kundu, 2018, p. 13). Thus, my research incorporates the voices of African Americans students to contribute to literature which explores how these students achieve success.


Educational Leadership, K-12



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