This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Black Paths to White Boards: Black Alumni Service on PWI Governing Boards




Redd, Tanja

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Governing boards of universities are tasked with upholding university principles and promoting university ideals, including those pertaining to diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, many university governing boards, especially those at predominantly white institutions (PWIs), lack the diversity required for accurate representation of all students’ interests. While the importance of board diversity has been established, the perspective of Black alumni serving on governing boards at PWIs is unknown but may lend important insight into replicating their successes. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the narratives of Black alumni serving on governing boards at PWIs to determine common themes in their experiences with and paths to service. The study was framed by Tillman’s Culturally Sensitive Research Theoretical Framework to inform this narrative inquiry by examining the experiences of Black alumni of PWIs that have assumed positions on Boards of Trustees. Twelve participants shared their narratives regarding their pathways to and motivation for service on their respective PWIs’ Boards of Trustees. Their narratives explicate the essential steps required for service, as well as the benefits and challenges of being Black alumni on PWI boards. Essential themes were elucidated within the context of culturally sensitive research and public service motivation, an unanticipated finding of the study. The results of this study expose the landscape for existing and future Black alumni serving on governing boards at PWIs. This research has implications for bringing awareness of existing issues, encouraging and assisting PWIs in diversifying their governing boards, and achieving insight into strategies for historically underrepresented students to achieve success in the future.