Pamela Felder -- Author and Educator


Research Overview

Understanding the doctorate, the terminal degree in higher education, has tremendous implications for learning and/or addressing many areas of higher education that have been viewed historically as problematic. The foremost concern in my research is the discussion of inequity in access in postsecondary education. In my estimation, attainment of the doctoral degree is the first step in gaining power and leadership opportunities in higher education. Without this credential the likelihood of faculty and administrative leaders stepping into long-term positions at our colleges and universities is jeopardized. This lack of leadership not only has an impact on doctoral degree production in terms of the qualified faculty members supervising research projects at the graduate level, it limits the visibility of this leadership for the undergraduate population of students as well. Thus, my work not only examines the statistical trends of the doctoral degree attainment it also explores pre-doctoral and post-doctoral degree experiences to shed light on the socialization aspects of students who enter doctoral study and the disciplinary identities of doctoral degree holders as they begin to engage in their professions.

My research plans for the next five to 10 years include a comprehensive examination of the African Americans and their doctoral experience in the United States. I seek to understand the societal factors that have shaped African American doctoral degree completion, including but not limited to, the systemic barriers of exclusion.  I plan to identify the African American population’s approach to doctoral degree attainment. I am broadly defining African American to include Americans of African descent, members of the African diaspora and their American descendants, and Africans.  Primarily, I use qualitative methods, and my research is not limited to contemporary case studies.  Edward A. Bouchet, for example, interests me, as he received the first Ph.D. conferred to an African American in this country at Yale University in 1876.

In the immediate future, I plan to continue building upon two concepts from my dissertation, moving them into peer-reviewed articles. The first idea involves the importance of faculty mentoring in the success of doctoral students.  My article titled, On doctoral student development: Exploring faculty mentoring in the shaping of African American doctoral student success (2010) explores student perceptions of faculty members as they relate to faculty behavior, academic advisement, and faculty diversity.  Moreover, my work (co-authored with Marco J. Barker, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) titled, Extending Bell’s concept of interest convergence: A framework for understanding the African American doctoral student experience (2013) and, African Americans and doctoral experience:  A case comparison through Bell’s interest convergence (forthcoming, 2014), examines student perceptions of the faculty-student relationship in an effort to develop a framework focused on strategies for supporting African American doctoral students. Works titled, Prior socialization in academic capital formation:  HBCU origins and their impact on doctoral student success (2012) and On firm foundations:  HBCU graduates and their doctoral student development in the Ivy League (2008) have focused on my interest in the pre-doctoral experiences of African Americans.

The previous ideas are connected to the goal of story-telling about the African American doctoral experience.  This includes developing an integrative literature review of African American doctoral degree attainment since 1876 with a focus on the factors most critical to degree completion.  Additionally, I plan to discuss various models of degree completion like Bouchet and many others who have made significant contributions as leaders within their institutions, disciplines, and communities.  Further development of this work will involve a search for external funding to support a large-scale qualitative assessment of the belief systems and behaviors of African American doctoral students at several different types of institutions.  Though, I am open to collaborating with quantitative researchers to develop mixed-methods studies, I will craft several peer reviewed articles based on these data using critical race theory, racial socialization, and doctoral student socialization as the primary theoretical perspectives informing my work. I look forward to writing about the findings of this assessment in two additional peer-reviewed articles focusing on the institutional legacies of African American doctoral degree production.