Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Susanna Thornhill, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jolyn Dahlvig, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Scot Headley, Ph.D.


This phenomenological study used a critical approach to explore the lived experiences of five female Asian American administrators who lead at predominately White institutions of higher education. Given the lack of female Asian American representation in senior-level positions across college and university campuses, the study aimed to understand how participants made meaning of their leadership experiences and what factors they viewed as important to their success. Participants indicated a strong desire to tell their stories. Four major findings surfaced in the analysis of data: (a) participants were trailblazers in their respective positions; (b) participants experienced a tension between wanting to avoid the entrapment of perceived female Asian American stereotypes or facing the consequences for stepping outside of those expected stereotypes; (c) participants experienced a constant state of exhaustion as a result of the implicit bias directed at them; and (d) participants indicated mentorship, opportunities, and allyship as factors that enabled them to achieve success in spite of the challenges. In keeping with a critical approach, this study acknowledged the tension between the needed representation that this study brings to existing literature and the risk of tokenizing the participants’ experiences. This study sought to provide a full picture that included the challenges the participants experienced as well as the resiliency and strength they demonstrated in their leadership. Implications for this study suggest a need for understanding racial challenges outside of a black and white binary, investing in female Asian American leaders, and increasing opportunities for mentorship with other female Asian Americans.

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