A Decolonizing Narrative of Global Health: Black Graduate Students’ Sense of Belonging in an Academic Global Health Program Open Access

Chinemere, Ugochi (Spring 2021)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/pr76f469r?locale=en


Background: Academic global health programs have reproduced historical legacies of racial exclusion stemming from colonialism and higher education’s racist past. These histories continue to exclude the voices and experiences of Black communities. The manifestation of these legacies can impact Black students’ sense of belonging in academic global health programs. Sense of belonging is a complex, multidimensional experience that allows students to feel valued and connected. This thesis explores the connection between white institutional spaces, neocolonial structures, and belonging by centering the shared experiences of Black graduate students within an elite global health master’s program in one predominately white private institution in the Southwest U.S. 

Methods: Qualitative research and data analysis were used with a narrative research design approach. The study consisted of 30 former and current self-identified Black students from the global health master’s program. Data were collected from 20 virtual interviews and 2 virtual focus groups to capture a wide breadth of experiences across cohorts. A critical race theoretical approach was applied to highlight the importance of race, racism, and counternarratives. 

Results: Results from qualitative research highlighted the following five themes identified: 1) Navigating the Racialized Identities of the Self and Others, 2) The Department’s Academic, Cultural and Procedural Environment, 3) Otherness, Disappointment and the Emotional Cost within the Black Student Experience, 4) Emotional Safety and Security, and 5) Creating Connections & Building Support. These factors influenced how Black students’ felt included and excluded throughout the program, thus impacting their sense of belonging. This study showed a need for structural and interpersonal change within the department that encourages the field to reckon with its history, implement an anti-racist and decolonial systemic approach, and support enfranchisement for Black students. 

Table of Contents

Black Students in Higher Education Sense of Belonging Historical Legacies of Racial Exclusion in Higher Education Black Students Excluded in U.S. Higher Education Academic Global Health Programs in the U.S. Theoretical Framework Critical Race Theory Methodology Narrative Qualitative Research The Site and Sample Selection Data Procedures Data Analysis Data Verification and Validation Positionality Results Theme 1: Navigating the Racialized Identities of the Self and Others Theme 2: The Department’s Academic, Cultural and Procedural Environment Theme 3: Otherness, Disappointment and the Emotional Cost within the Black Student Experience Theme 4: Emotional Safety and Security Theme 5: Creating Connections & Building Support The Culmination of These Experience Impacted How Black Students Felt Included and Excluded within the Department Discussion Future Recommendations Conclusion Limitations

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