Visibly Invisible: Uncovering Identity for African American Women at an Academically Selective University
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Using intersectionality as the theoretical framework, this study examined the identity development of African American women attending an academically selective university. Much of the extant literature on African American college women was either not identity focused or did not speak to the experiences of those students situated in these highly competitive academic environments. A qualitative research approach and case study analysis was utilized for this study. This included the use of photographs and photo-elicitation interviewing to actively engage the study’s participants in the process of sharing their identity development and to place their voice and how they make meaning of their complex identities as primary. Examining both their pre-college and in-college experiences, this study looked closely at the impact of family, peer groups, society, internal messages, and the academically selective university setting on the participants’ identity development. While the women in the study enter college viewing identity as largely fixed, the collegiate context played an important role in facilitating their identity evolution. This study outlined the growth process as these participants shifted their understanding of identity from fixed to fluid or from invisible to visible. Implications for this research include the need for colleges and universities to better address the holistic needs of African American female students, especially at their identity intersections. Additional areas for research include reconceptualizing college student identity development to incorporate more holistic, intersectional elements as a means to supporting a student’s development more comprehensively.
Crear, Shelah Flowers (2013). Visibly Invisible: Uncovering Identity for African American Women at an Academically Selective University. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from