The very soon-to-be Dr. Feleciah Brown is excited to graduate this semester with a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU). Nevertheless, her journey is far from over.
Brown grew up in the small east Texas town of Athens, where African-Americans were often limited in the growth of obtaining leadership positions. After experiencing racism throughout her career as an African American woman attempting to enter into the field of educational leadership, Brown persevered through, becoming a curriculum director for a rural school district.
“Every ounce of who I am was afforded to me by the experiences obtained through PVAMU’s Whitlowe R. Green College of Education,” said Brown. “I was inspired to attend PVAMU by my older brother, Willie, who graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from the Roy G. Perry College of Engineering. In 2009, I enrolled in the Master of Education (M.Ed.) in educational administration program because I, too, wanted to have the HBCU experience and all it had to offer.”
Upon completing her master’s degree, Brown says she met several influential professors, like the late Dr. Clement Glenn and Dr. Patricia Hoffman-Miller, who challenged her to “go beyond the depths of your own insecurities” and “strive for excellence in all that you do.” Brown took their advice and enrolled in PVAMU’s educational leadership Ph.D. program in 2013.
“This journey had been nothing but amazing, be it the good times or the bad,” she said. “I developed many friendships over the years, especially among my Cohort 9 members, and we continue to support each other throughout the dissertation process. I’ve also faced many obstacles along this journey, including the death of my father, divorce and becoming a single parent, losing my job, and often attempting to quit the doctoral program. But, God and my Divine 9 Cohort members kept me going.”
She says quitting would have been easy, but she found the perseverance and self-confidence to continue.
“I couldn’t give up, no matter how bad I wanted to,” she said. “No matter how difficult the coursework or research got, I could always reach out to my professors, and they would support and encourage me to self-reflect on my goals and create my plan of action on how to address situations. Dr. Glenn always told me to ‘begin with the end in mind,’ and that’s exactly how I began to address every obstacle.”
Brown decided to focus her research on student-athletes with disabilities, due to her nephew, Desmond. Desmond was a student-athlete in high school who struggled with an intellectual disorder, in addition to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
“I understood the importance of this research, as I was an athlete who suffered from ADHD. K.J., my 13-year-old son, is also a student-athlete who suffers from Oppositional Defiance Disorder and ADD.”
Brown’s study explores the lived experiences of NCAA Division I self-identified student-athletes and how they achieve success while attending an HBCU in southeastern Texas. The study also identifies strategies that were implemented to meet NCAA eligibility and institutional academic requirements.
“Each year, HBCU athletic programs struggle to support their athletes due to inequity in funding,” she said. “Each year, many student-athletes choose not to disclose their disabilities due to negative stereotyping linked with receiving accommodations. These students use their superior athletic ability to increase the financial revenue of college and university athletic departments. However, when student-athletes choose not to self-identify with disability service programs at postsecondary institutions to receive classroom accommodations, they miss potential opportunities for success. Many student-athletes with self-identified disabilities fail to finish their first year of college.”
Through her research, Brown has chosen to continue to fight for equity in funding for Division I HBCU’s and their athletic programs.
“The lack of funding for HBCUs creates a dilemma in providing academic assistance for student-athletes, ultimately limiting the much-needed resources to support self-identifying student-athletes who perform diligently to procure millions of dollars for NCAA sports each year,” she said.
Brown hopes her research can eventually change the narrative and make a positive impact at Division I HBCUs and their athletic programs and student-athletes. With her newfound degree from PVAMU, we have no doubt she will achieve her goals.