Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Elaine Walker, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kwame Y. Akonor, Ph.D.


Black Immigrant, Ivy League, Academic Success, Caribbean Immigrant


Caribbean-American students who pursue higher education at Ivy League institutions most often maintain a strong ethnic identification with the race and culture of their birth. As described by Waters (2001a) and Vickerman (2001), the ethnic pride and solidarity of these first and second-generation Caribbean immigrants have made a positive impact on their self-image, thus enabling many to become upwardly mobile as they confront prejudice and resist societal misperceptions of their culture (Waters, 2001; Vickerman, 2001). Therefore, even after they have spent many years absorbing American culture while “sitting comfortably at the black and white table,” Caribbean-Americans do not see themselves as exemplars of European culture (Waters, 2001; Vickerman, 2001).

Waters (1996; 1999), believes that West Indians prefer to create a positive association with race and that double marginalization rarely exists in the self-perception of Black Caribbean immigrant students. However, studies reveal that a growing number of researchers are examining issues to determine what students are doing “right,” compared to what they are doing “wrong” (Padilla, Trevino, Gonzalez, and Treviño, 1997; Fries-Britt, 2002; Shushok and Hulme, 2006; Griffin, 2006).

With the understanding that first and second-generation Black Caribbean immigrants view race and the issues of blackness differently than Black Americans, the research questions are implicitly informed and formulated accordingly. Therefore, this study examined the perception of Black Caribbean immigrant graduates from Ivy League institutions as they explained the phenomena of how their successes are often influenced by social, cultural and economic factors to overcome barriers to graduate degree from the Ivy League Universities.

The study sought to analyze the perception of these graduates, particularly the willingness of black immigrant graduates to step away from a deficit model because of one or more of the following factors to gain visibility in their efforts. These included: (1) the increasing enrollment of Black Caribbean immigrant students in Ivy League universities; (2) The strategies Black Caribbean immigrant students used to advance their standards of excellence; (3) The Black Caribbean immigrant students’ perception of the Ivy Leagues and how this perception influenced their academic and professional lives; and (4) The growing need for diversity in higher education in order to influence positive psychological discourse in education.

Qualitative data were collected from Black Caribbean immigrants who graduated from Ivy League University in the USA. Fifteen (15) semi-structured, personal interviews were conducted. The results enhanced, supported and added to the limited research on Black Caribbean immigrant students’ journey through the Ivy Leagues and their lived experiences. The findings provided insight on how early socialization, intrinsic motivation, cultural awareness, teachers input, academic preparedness, parents support, extended family support, the grit mind-set and community reinforcement shaped and informed these students’ ability to navigate the Ivy Leagues to graduate. Subsequently, the analysis revealed that these characteristics mentioned above all worked together to provide the understanding of the academic success of Caribbean immigrant students. The participants recommended that more Black Caribbean immigrant students should be given the opportunities, as well as the resources and support to navigate these selective universities. Additionally, one recommendation was that a feeder institution could provide efficient use of human resources and could help enhance talents. This could be accomplished by harnessing growth and shaping the direction and effectiveness of what motivates and sustains Caribbean immigrant students to greater nation building.