Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education


Dawn Johnson


Black women college presidents;Critical discourse analysis;higher education leadership;Media representation

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Higher Education Administration


Research has found that diversity has a positive impact on innovation, but the profile of higher education leaders has not become drastically more diverse. Although there have been modest changes, they have not been consistent with the changing demographics of college students. The few high-profile presidential appointments of Black women that have received media attention have been the exception rather than the norm. This dissertation used critical discourse analysis and content analysis to examine how eight Black women college presidents were written about in the media. The research questions explored the discourse about Black women college presidents and their leadership in media text; how stereotypes and controlling images perpetuated throughout the media texts; and how the discourse changed, if at all, in each of their presidencies. Data consisted of articles published in national, regional, and local news sources. A total of 1,048 articles were identified, 305 of which were about the presidents. With Black feminist thought as the theoretical framework, this study had three main findings. First, presidents were characterized as historic, controversial, or invisible in the media texts. Second, the media texts objectified presidents with descriptions of their physical appearances. Third, media texts used the controlling image of superwoman to describe the presidents as exceptional. This dissertation adds to the scholarly literature on Black women college presidents. Examining how these eight Black women presidents were presented in media texts highlighted the challenges Black women college presidents face, and practical recommendations were made to counter these challenges.


Open Access

Available for download on Saturday, June 14, 2025