Leadership development in African -American graduates of a predominantly White women's college: A case study of Barnard College

Avis E Hinkson, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this study was to identify contributing factors to leadership development amongst African American graduates of a predominantly White women's college and to present ways in which programmatic efforts can be improved to enhance future opportunities for leadership development. The research questions responded to in this study include: (1) How does Barnard College develop leadership in African American women? (2) How can women's colleges, in general, improve their opportunities for leadership development and are there specific aspects of leadership that need to be given special attention due to their value to African American women? The problem of practice is to what extent is the development of leadership given programmatic focus rather than being treated as a desired byproduct. Based on an exploration of literature on women's colleges, leadership development and African American students' experiences with higher education, this study focuses on seventeen African American members of the classes of 1993 through 1998 at Barnard College who were interviewed about their experiences with leadership development while in college. Additionally, five senior administrators were also interviewed and recruitment literature reviewed to provide greater perspective on the college's efforts to develop leadership amongst the students. From the interview transcripts and Barnard's literature, themes were identified and the Barnard experience characterized by the role it played in developing leadership in alumnae. It became clear that the presence of a strong, Black female relative who modeled leadership for the alumnae was critical to the alumnae's sense of self; and that faculty, staff and peers provided support as well as functioned as mentors during college. Barnard's high expectations of students coupled with the environment of Barnard, which was conducive to their development, brought about impressive outcomes in the alumnae. This conduciveness was created by a balance of support, challenge, opportunities, mentors and high expectations. And the resulting outcomes include great accomplishments in graduate or professional school, career progress and service to their communities. Recommendations for the enhancement of leadership development at Barnard College, and other liberal arts colleges, emphasize the importance of a comprehensive, multi-tracked leadership development plan.

Subject Area

School administration|Womens studies|African Americans|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Hinkson, Avis E, "Leadership development in African -American graduates of a predominantly White women's college: A case study of Barnard College" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3124689.