Date of Award

Summer 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Committee Chair

Jeffrey Hamilton

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Dale Lamb


Black and minority students often do not persist to graduation and voluntarily drop out due to dissatisfaction with the lack of inclusivity and belonging experiences at predominantly White institutions (PWIs). This research examined the sense of belonging and inclusion for Black students at Southern Cross College (SCC; pseudonym), a private, faith-based institution located in an urban city in the southeastern region of the United States. All students are welcomed at SCC; however, there is an obscure caveat. Students whose identities align with specific diverse characteristics (ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religious belief) may find themselves feeling isolated, excluded, and ostracized from the overall campus community. In 2019, five Black students enrolled at SCC pursued creating a student organization that provided a safe space to uplift, support, and celebrate Black culture and diversity. This study identified potential conflicts that may arise when controversial diversity topics, such as racial diversity, campus racial climate, LGBTQ inclusion, women's rights, and academic freedoms, do not align with the religious beliefs upheld by faith-based colleges. A mixed-method design was used to analyze quantitative results from a survey questionnaire about general feelings of belonging. The qualitative research included focus group interviews with Black undergraduate students that provided perceptions of their lived experiences on campus. The findings concluded that Black students did not experience inclusivity and feelings of belonging at SCC. The research recommended implementing affinity organizations to enhance the lived experiences of Black students, which may increase Black persistence and graduation rates. As a result of this suggestion, the Black Student Alliance organization was established. Another recommendation was for recruitment efforts to hire and retain diverse faculty and staff. The research concludes that fostering a more inclusive campus community and bridging the gap between diverse student populations and institutional values will increase student involvement and engagement.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License