Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Health and Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Bryan Romsa


African American, graduate school, influencing factors, student-athletes


Although support systems are in place for student-athletes, African Americans remain underrepresented in careers requiring a graduate education, including intercollegiate athletic departments (Okahana, Feaster, & Allum, 2016). The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study was to explore the factors influencing an NCAA Mid-major, Division I African American student-athletes’ choice of pursuing graduate school. Researchers identified themes utilizing Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Student Involvement Theory frameworks to explain the influencing factors. The participants consisted of nine African American sophomore, junior, and senior student-athletes who participated in different sports and were chosen using purpose sampling. Each participant took part in an unstructured, one-on-one interview to determine influencing factors for their choice to attend graduate school. All interviews were transcribed and analyzed by researchers using data triangulation, member checking, and eliciting examples. The main influencing factors that emerged from the interviews included financial barriers, mentors or lack of one, the role of family members, and access and education about graduate school. Education about graduate school is important for these individuals, so they fully understand the process and steps necessary to get accepted into graduate school. This study highlights some of the challenges that these African American student-athletes encounter as they pursue both athletic and academic success and in identifying strategies leading to their success. Knowing these challenges can help individuals in higher education better understand the phenomena these individuals experience. Educational seminars about graduate school, and also about financial management, time management, and other life skills that are pertinent is important for these individuals.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

African Americans -- Education (Graduate)
African American college students.
African American college athletes.
College choice.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright