Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The leadership viewpoints of Women of Color (WOC), in general, and WOC collegians specifically, are not widely available or recognized. This exclusion and oversight is a disservice to all. The inadequate inclusion of WOC's perspective in leadership literature is due to the assumptions of race and gender neutrality in leadership studies. Viewing leadership as a set of universal constructs, garnered from a select few and generalized to a great many, is not adequate to understanding the leadership experiences of WOC within dominant-culture environments. To address these deficits, critical leadership scholars have proposed that leadership be (re)conceptualized from a multicultural perspective, placing the perspectives of marginalized voices at the center of analysis. With that charge, this study explored the leadership experiences of undergraduate WOC college students attending private predominately White institutions (PWIs) of higher education in the United States. Using critical hermeneutic phenomenology, this study sought to better understand how leadership was learned, experienced, and performed by WOC collegians in the context of their multiple and intersecting social identities. Through €˜creative nonfiction' critical transformative dialogue, the essence of leadership was exemplified for collegiate WOC. The findings revealed that leadership as a WOC collegian attending a PWI was first and foremost about identity. Themes emerged at the personal, group, and system level, illustrating the complex web of leadership engagement for collegiate WOC. This study contributes to the knowledge-base on student leadership development and illustrates the importance of centering the lived experience to counter essentialized leadership constructs.