School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (PhD)


Joy M. Mwendwa


Critical Race Theory, HBCUs, CACREP Master’s, Counselors in Training, African American Counseling Students, Underrepresentation


Counseling | Education


African American students’ experiences in graduate programs at predominately White institutions (PWIs) have been explored in previous research. Said experiences were described using the following constructs: underrepresentation, invisibility, isolation, lack of support, and silence. There is minimal research that focuses on Black students’ experiences at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), where the environment was reported to be welcoming, nurturing, and supportive. This study adds to the literature by exploring the lived experiences of African American students in CACREP-accredited master’s counseling programs at HBCUs, with critical race theory (CRT) as the theoretical framework. After being identified as eligible based on a screening survey, semi-structured interviews and photovoice were implemented to allow space for the six participants to share their experiences. The following five themes and subthemes emerged from an analysis of their responses: relationship dynamics with the subthemes of representation, faculty, peers, and isolation; climate with the subthemes of program, HBCUs, and challenges; being Black; scholarship with the subthemes of CACREP and academic transactions; and COVID. Participants shared mostly positive experiences, noting the family feel of their programs, the pleasant relationships with their faculty, connectedness to their peers, and a sense of empowerment because of their Blackness. Implications for counselor educators suggest making the conscious effort to communicate in a timely manner, make students feel welcome, and teach from a multicultural lens.