Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Family Science and Human Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Pearl Stewart

Committee Member

Kathryn Herr

Committee Member

Katia Paz-Goldfarb


Black First-Generation Professionals (BFPs) represent groups of individuals who were the first in their families to attend and complete a college degree; they are also first in their families to attain White-collar professional careers. This qualitative study sought to understand the lived experiences of BFPs in the workplace; complexities of upward mobility, identity development and family relationships were also explored. The success stories for all participants came at a cost, a burden, a toll, or some sacrifice for a greater good. Upward mobility in the Black community can be viewed from two opposing ends of a gains-loss spectrum. On one end, there are significant gains that are attached to one’s academic and career success; on the other end, there are losses or experiences that are often unseen, unrecognized or unnamed. Ambiguous loss and Black identity development theories were used as guiding frameworks for this study. Analysis of the data collected revealed five main themes: 1) tripartite workplace: stressful, powerful, and triggering; 2) mentorship: critical element for success; 3) identity is nuanced; 4) upward mobility: hidden experiences and feelings; and 5) family expectations and motivating factors for success. Implications and future considerations are outlined.

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