ISBN: 978-1-942774-93-8

Black Women's Pathways To Executive Academic Leadership:

Lessons From Lived Experiences

“It is your time! It is my time! It is our time! Ladies, we can do this! In the words of Shirley Chisolm, the first African American woman in Congress to seek the nomination for president of the United States, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Karrie G. Dixon, Chancellor
Elizabeth City State University (NC)


Black Women’s Pathways to Executive Academic Leadership: Lessons from Lived Experiences

Editor: Crystal Chambers, Ph.D.

Over half of college presidents (55%) are planning to step down from their positions within the next five years. This impending change in leadership, particularly among underrepresented groups, presents an opportunity not only to diversify leadership but more importantly address “the need for leaders who understand the experiences of racially and ethnically diverse student bodies , who can identify barriers that mask merit, and who can garner support to make campuses welcoming and inclusive spaces for all.” Through personal reflections and insights, the authors in this volume provide a comprehensive analysis of the experiences and challenges faced by Black women leaders in community colleges, HBCUs, and predominantly White institutions (PWIs), and offers a comprehensive, practical, and research-based exploration of executive academic leadership, providing valuable insights and guidance for current and aspiring leaders in higher education and the importance of traditional and nontraditional leadership pathways to an everchanging academic environment. Included is a powerful call to action for institutions of higher education to prioritize diversity and inclusion in their leadership structures, and to recognize and support invaluable contributions of Black women leaders in shaping the future of education.

Table of Contents

Dr. Karrie Dixon, Chancellor, Elizabeth State University

Introduction to the Volume

Black Women’s Pathways to Executive Leadership in the Academy
Dr. Crystal R. Chambers, East Carolina University

The Community College Context
Dr. Katrina Arnold, Pitt Community College

Black Women and Their Pursuit to the Community College Presidency

The Future of Black Women in Community College Executive Leadership

The Historically White Institutional Context
Tamika Williams, Belmont University

Breaking through the Glass Ceiling while Staying Off the Glass Cliff

When Perception Meets Reality: Reflections on Leading Oneself and the Institution

The Historically Black Institutional Context
Dr. Nichole Lewis, Elizabeth City State University

The Culture and Climate Surrounding Black Women in HBCU Presidencies

The Calling to Lead: Black Women’s Commitments to Run HBCUs

Dr. Kassie Freeman, African Diaspora Consortium


Resources for Black Women Academic Executive Leaders


A Universal Write Publication with Support from SAGE Publishing


Photo Credit: C. Lyndon Brown

Crystal Chambers, Ph.D.

Dr. Crystal R. Chambers is a 2018 Carnegie Fellow and professor of educational leadership at East Carolina University. Additional honors include the American Association of Higher Education Black Caucus Doctoral Student Award (2005), a 2013 Chancellor’s Leadership Academy Fellowship, a 2016 East Carolina University Women of Distinction Award, and 2021 Fellow of the UNC System Executive Leadership Institute. Her areas of expertise are centered on issues of race and gender in higher education and include college choice, faculty advancement, and doctoral education. She is the author of over 30 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. In addition to this volume, she is an editor and author of several book volumes such as Law and Social Justice in Higher Education (Routledge, 2016) and African American Rural Education (Emerald, 2020).

Dr. Crystal Chambers is the recipient of the 2023 ASHE CAHEP Barbara Townsend Award for outstanding achievements and impactful contributions to the field of higher education through research, leadership, and dedicated service.

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