The Importance of Place and Its Impact on Belonging for the Black College Student

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ed.D. in Leadership for Organizations


Department of Educational Administration


Advisor: Ricardo Garcia


As students of color find belonging in their campus community, they not only desire to persist to graduation, but they to seek to thrive and cultivate a sense of place for their peers to do the same. Utilizing Black placemaking framework, this study explored the lived experiences and the interpretation of that experience for Black students at Carmel University. The university’s place based identity is rooted in the Imago Dei, the understanding that we are all created in the image of God and are to be fully known in who we are. Hermeneutical phenomenology was employed in the process of data collection which included interviews, observations, and the reflexive journaling of the researcher. In that communicative space, five themes overarching themes were identified in the data analysis: experience of place, belonging, social capital, interpretation of experience, and hope. Findings suggest that while participants value their experience at Carmel, there is an expressed need to support Black student belonging through representation, opportunities, and practices that represent who they are. Further, findings suggest a critical need for a commitment from the institution to take the initiative to create and sustain these opportunities. The study proposes a plan of action grounded in a collaborative process with participants, community members, and invested stakeholders that contributes to belonging and thriving through mentorship and a feasibility study of bringing a Black Greek Letter Organization to campus.


Belonging, Sense of place, Black students, Black placemaking, Christian higher education

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