Natasha N. Croom

Natasha Croom said she hopes her new book allows readers to see higher education topics from the perspective of undergraduate black female students.
Image Credit: Clemson University

Natasha N. Croom, assistant professor of higher education and student affairs in Clemson’s College of Education, served as co-editor of a recently released book that acts as a collection of scholarship on the college experiences of black women. The book, “Critical Perspectives on Black Women and College Success,” was published by Routledge and includes chapters from over 20 different authors.

According to Croom, the book attempts to address the many “fantasies” regarding black women—particularly undergraduate black women—by critically interrogating and examining them in order to illuminate the complexities of their experiences across the higher education landscape. Croom hopes the book is one of the first in a long line of books from scholars that focus on this particular demographic.

“Most discussions like this exist as part of a larger discussion of diverse populations,” Croom said, “but very little scholarship emphasizes the experiences of black women specifically. The established narratives reveal just how little is known about these experiences in higher education.”

According to Croom, the book is already being used in Student Affairs graduate preparation programs across the U.S., and she has been invited to speak with classes virtually on its topics. Croom has presented on the topics and themes in the book at Clemson University, most recently on a panel, “The Educated Sista: Black Women in Academy,” hosted by the Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education in fall 2016.

Croom and co-editor Lori D. Patton focus on three such narratives they describe as fantasies, but acknowledge that these examples are anything but comprehensive. These fantasies of perceived academic success, a “new” model minority and “black girl magic” paint a picture of undergraduate black women that Croom and Patton describe as “incomplete narratives at best and erroneous narratives at worst.”

Croom said examination of such narratives reveals the lack of resources and attention devoted to this specific audience. Croom hopes the book will contribute to what she considers is a growing interest and need to study black women’s college experiences, particularly the contexts that influence success.

“Scholars in the academic community can push this conversation forward effectively by asking critical questions and using relevant frameworks,” Croom said. “One book can’t cover everything, but the many contributors in this collection are prime examples of how to approach this area of scholarship in the future.”

Entire sections of the book are devoted to historical and generational perspectives on black undergraduate women; ruling discourse and identity politics in the lives of black undergraduate women; respectability and resistance on campus; and socialization, well-being and support. In addition to the leading chapter, Croom also serves as co-author of a chapter entitled “From Discourse to Practice: Making Discourses About Black Undergraduate Womyn Visible in Higher Education Journals and Student Affairs Practice.”

“I learned something from each chapter, and I really think the strength of the book lies in the fact that many of the topics are never considered from the perspectives of undergraduate black women students,” Croom said.

Croom’s research uses critical theoretical frameworks and qualitative inquiry practices, and her scholarship centers the experiences of women of color in analyses of institutional practices and policies related to faculty advancement, student development and intersectional identity development in postsecondary environments.

Her work has been accepted in Negro Educational Review, Equity & Excellence in Education, The Review of Higher Education and the Journal for Student Affairs Research and Practice. She is an active member of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and College Student Educators International.

Croom earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership in Higher Education from Iowa State University. She earned a Master of Science in Education in Higher Education Administration and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M University.