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Prospectus Presentation – Janelle Gardner

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April 30, 2014 @ 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
College of Education, room 650
30 Pryor Street Southwest
Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303

The Part-time, Black, PhD Student/Mother Experience
by Janelle Gardner

Obtaining a PhD largely involves learning the language and ways of members of specific academic communities, so this study views literacy as a social practice (Brodkey, 1987). The literature on doctoral students suggests that social interactions with faculty and other graduate students are key to their development (Lovitls, 2001; Weidman, Twale, & Stein, 2001) because they provide important first-hand opportunities for learning how to be a doctoral student and a scholar. Research also suggests that some students who are Black women (Cutts, Love, & Davis, 2012), part-timers (Gardner & Gopaul, 2012), or mothers (Lynch, 2008) may have fewer of these types of social interactions than those who are neither Black women, part-time, nor mothers. However, to gain an understanding of what these experiences are like for part-time, Black, Ph.D. student mothers, generally the findings from these separate bodies of literature must be examined.

The purpose of this qualitative study is to examine the doctoral student experiences of part-time, Black, Ph.D. student mothers. In particular, this study aims to investigate how race and gender might impact being a student who is both a part-timer and mother. If students’ social interaction needs are not met, this may result in benign neglect (Lave & Wenger, 1991), a form of isolation which requires the location of one’s own means of social support (Gay, 2004). Isolation has been linked to attrition (Lovitts, 2001). Using semi-structured interviews and visual representations, the experiences of 3-10 current or prospective education PhD recipients will be explored. It will be framed by Black feminist thought, sociocultural theory, and situated learning, and it will draw upon visual discourse analysis and the constant comparative method for analysis. The guiding questions are: 1) What are the experiences of part-time, Black Ph.D. student mothers? 2) How do they participate with faculty and other graduate students within their departments? And 3) How does being a Black GSM impact women’s doctoral student experiences, especially as it relates to their social interactions? It is anticipated that being a part-time, Black, Ph.D. student mothers will have a profound impact on the nature of participants’ social interactions within their academic communities.

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