Through a critical constructionist epistemology I employ qualitative methods to explore success, access, and equity in higher education for those who are racially marginalized and minoritized.  More specifically, my research exists in two connected areas of inquiry.  In the first area, I study the mentoring and socialization that occurs in higher education within formal mentoring programs between faculty and students of color.  Related to socialization, and the dominant focus of my second area of inquiry, I explore the educational and identity experiences of underrepresented populations in the academy including Black faculty and staff, women from the African diaspora, and Students of Color. 


Through intersectional and socialization theoretical frameworks and qualitative analytical methods (i.e., interpretive phenomenological analysis, content analysis, and grounded theory) I ask overarching questions related to how institutions advance equity and support minoritized students, faculty, and staff in the academy. 

Current Research Projects

Experiences of Graduate Students of Color

Through the work of the Action Research Collective, the research team continues to analyze data from graduate Students of Color at Clemson University using photovoice methodology.

Black Faculty & Staff Belonging

Currently in the data analysis process, this research explores the experiences of black faculty and staff post an incident of race-centered, student-led activism at a predominantly white institution (PWI) and influence on perceptions of belonging. 

Black Womxn's Natural Hair in the Academy

Since 2013 I have researched this topic through interviews with black womxn college students about their experiences going and being natural (embracing their curly-kinky-coily-afro-textured hair at a PWI and how their experiences influence their developing identities. 

Selected Publications



Phelps-Ward, R. (2020). Emancipatory research counter-spaces: Theorizing about Black doctoral

student socialization. In J. C. Weidman, & L. DeAngelo (Eds.), Socialization in higher education and the early career: Theory, research and application

Phelps-Ward, R., & Kenney, J. (2019). Navigating whiteness and white people: The coping strategies

of Black, entry-level student affairs professionals. Journal of Student Affairs, 28, 121-134.

Phelps-Ward, R. (2019). A book review of Intersectionality in Educational Research. The Review of

Higher Education.  


Phelps-Ward, R., & Phelps. E. K. (2019). Sisterly personal narratives from two black sisters in the

academy. In K. K. Hope (Ed.), Speaking from within: Black women in higher education (pp. 94-111). New York: Peter Lang.

Klar, H. W., Huggins, K. S., Buskey, F. C., Desmangles, J. K., & Phelps-Ward, R. (2018). Developing social capital for collaboration in a research-practice partnership.  Journal of Professional Capital & Community, 3(4), 287-305. doi:10.1108/JPCC-01-2018-0005


Phelps-Ward, R., Allen, C., & Howard, J. (2018). A rhetorical analysis of Beyoncé’s “Freedom”: An examination of Black college women’s experiences at predominantly White institutions. Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education, 16(2), 50-64. Retrieved from 


Phelps-Ward, R., Kenney, J., & Howard, J. (2017). Epistemology, pedagogy, and student affairs

assessment: A voluminous framework for equity. Journal of Student Affairs Inquiry. Retrieved from


Phelps-Ward, R., & DeAngelo, L. (2016). Feeding the pipeline toward the doctorate: Examining the

formal mentoring experiences of Black undergraduate students. Western Journal of Black Studies, 40(2), 109-123. Retrieved from           


Latz, A. O., Phelps-Ward, R., Royer, D., & Peters, T. (2016). Photovoice as methodology, pedagogy,

and community building tool: A graduate and community college student collaboration. Journal of Public Scholarship in Higher Education, 6, 124-142. Retrieved from


Phelps-Ward, R., & Laura, C. T. (2016). Talking back in cyberspace: Self-love, hair care, and counter

narratives in Black adolescent girls' YouTube vlogs. Gender & Education, 28(6), 784-798. doi:10.1080/095402532016.1221888


Phelps-Ward, R., & Latz, A. (2016). Institutionalizing mentoring in community colleges: An initiative

for promoting minority student success. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 20(1), 1-6. Retrieved from

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