Withstanding our Status as Outsiders-Within: Professional Counterspaces for African American Women Student Affairs Administrators


Although engagement in social and academic counterspaces has been studied as a strategy used by African American college students to withstand racially inhospitable campus climates, very little research documents the impact of professional counterspaces on African American women student affairs administrators. The purpose of this basic interpretive qualitative study was to explore how consistently participating in the African American Women's Summit (AAWS), a professional development program in the United States designed by and for African American women student affairs administrators (i.e., a professional counterspace), assisted these women working at PWIs to withstand their status as outsiders-within. Findings revealed three primary ways participants benefited from participating in the AAWS: identification and validation of oppressive experiences, dissemination of strategies to resist oppressions, and fortification of African American women's standpoint. Based upon the findings of this study, it can be presumed that African American women in higher education may be better equipped to identify (and thus better prepared to respond to) microaggressive incidents, find greater access to survival and success strategies, and develop a healthier standpoint when engaged in culturally homogenous professional counterspaces that are developed by and for themselves.


Counseling, Leadership, and Special Education

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NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education