Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Matthew Davis


Thomasina Hassler

Carl Hoagland

Kimberly Allen



According to United States Census (2016), Women in female-headed households with no spouse experienced higher rates of poverty (35.6 percent) than women in married-couple families (6.6 percent) and men in male-headed households. Having an education would significantly increase their chances of obtaining suitable employment which would also grant them income and benefits that could improve the overall quality of life for their families.

Today women are the majority on college campuses. According to The United States Census Bureau (2011), women make up 56% of college enrollment. Though the percentage of women attending college is increasing, the challenges that they face while on campus have yet to recede (Duquaine-Watson, 2007; Stevens, 2002; Shaw, 2004). According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2009), 12 percent of undergraduate students are single parents; 78 percent of those students are considered low income. Students who are also parents face dealing with the responsibilities of parenting while also having to work and attend class. Time management, healthcare, childcare, and financial obligations are barriers that make persistence especially difficult for single parent college students.

Those barriers are especially apparent for women of color (Knight, 2007). Knight (2007), suggests that, “These concerns are significant when conceptualizing issues related to Black females as racist, classist, and sexist systems of oppression and inequality shape school experiences and outcomes, and are triple threats to academic achievement” (p.2).

The purpose of this autoethnography was to explore the author’s experience as an African American single parent college student and as a member of a sorority designed for students with similar backgrounds. More specifically, this study aimed to give light to the effects that intersectionality had on the author’s ability to persist in a higher education setting. This study explored the author’s personal experience in relationship to other African American single mother college students’ experiences during their academic tenure. This study aimed to answer the following research questions: How did the intersections of racism, classism, and sexism affect the persistence of the author? This dissertation also sought to answer what was the impact that a sorority dedicated to mothers in higher education had on the author personally, socially, and academically?

This research utilized critical race feminist theory and mat to describe the microaggressions experienced by the author and other members of the sorority. The counter-stories dove deeper into the core of the single parent college student experience. They uncovered the social isolation, the lack of understanding from faculty and staff members, and the extensive pressure to succeed despite all odds. Findings revealed that the author suffered from the consequences of multiple intersections of racism, sexism, and classism. She not only had to deal with external indicators of oppression but internal as well. Additional finding suggest that African American women are essentially using education to camouflage themselves in order to adopt the power of White privilege; specifically, the rights to enjoyment and the rights of reputation. The application of this camouflage is how African American single mothers are coping with the layers of oppression placed upon them by making it more difficult for individuals to devalue them without exposing their own racial propaganda. Providing support for this growing population is essential for student connectivity, student development, and persistence.