Transitioning, Belonging, and the Black Student Experience: A Phenomenological Study

  • Kali Morgan, Ph. D. Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Tonisha B. Lane, Ph. D. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Jimmy Hutchful
  • Selene Y. Willis
  • LaFrance Clarke Jr.
  • Camille Rivera
Keywords: orientation, sense of belonging, Black college students, graduation rates


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the orientation and transitional experiences of Black undergraduate students at Metropolitan State University (MSU, pseudonym) an urban, public research university in the southeastern region of the United States. MSU is a unique research site for this study, as Black students’ six-year graduation rates equal that of White students. Using sense of belonging as a conceptual framework, the research team collected data from 28 participants in seven focus groups throughout the 2018-2019 academic year.  Findings revealed that participants experienced disparate orientation and transitional experiences, as well as a poor racial climate throughout their time at MSU.  Specifically, participants noted a shortage of Black faculty, limited Black cultural programming, and a need for identity-based space. Among working with campus partners to improve the racial climate, implications for orientation professionals include recruiting professional and student staff members who represent the racial composition of the university and ensuring culturally relevant content during orientation programs.

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Submitted: 2019-08-15
Accepted: 2020-03-10
Published: 2020-05-12
How to Cite
Morgan, K., Lane, T., Hutchful, J., Willis, S., Clarke Jr., L., & Rivera, C. (2020). Transitioning, Belonging, and the Black Student Experience: A Phenomenological Study. Journal of College Orientation, Transition, and Retention, 27(1).
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