The Lived Experiences of Black Muslim Students Attending a Predominantly White Institution

Principal investigator

Keon McGuire

Award start date


Award end date


Originating sponsor

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

The challenge

A growing body of scholarship investigates the experiences of spiritually and religiously minoritized populations, such as black Muslim men. Findings from these studies highlight the ways students engage with campus support services, and their decisions concerning religious stylings and representations. A second line of inquiry examines students who occupy multiple marginalized social locations. With a few notable exceptions, much of empirical research on college students focuses on the realities of Muslim women. There is much to be learned about what religion, race and gender mean for black Muslim college men and immigrant-origin Muslim students. This study by Assistant Professor Keon McGuire and Assistant Professor Saskias Casanova seeks to answer: 1) How do black Muslim college students discursively construct their blackness and Muslim identity; 2) How do race, gender, immigration status and religion inform students’ educational experiences; and 3) How do students experience and respond to intersectional microaggressions targeting multiple stigmatized identities?

The approach

The researchers will employ narrative inquiry, specifically “narrative as lived experience.” Students’ narratives will largely be gathered through semi-structured, life story interviews, with photovoice employed as an accompanying method of data collection. Data collection sites will include two Phoenix, Arizona-area community colleges, with five students who self-identify as black and Muslim recruited at each site. Attention will be given to ethnic, gender and immigration status diversity within the sample. (A second grant is under review to support data collection at two, four-year institutions: Arizona State University and the University of Southern California.) In phase 1, students will be asked open-ended questions that examine their precollege experiential journeys at the intersection of religion, race, immigration status and gender. Students will be invited to participate in a second interview (phase 3), exploring similar themes within the context of in-college experiences. Between the first and second interviews, students will be asked to complete a photovoice exercise (phase 2) asking what it means for them to be black, Muslim and, if applicable, an immigrant attending college. Data will be analyzed following Riessman’s typology for narrative inquiry analysis.

Findings and impact

Findings from this study will assist educators in developing programs, policies and inclusive learning environments that better support students’ educational and developmental needs. Further, this study will advance understanding of black, religious, gender and immigrant social identities in student development research and practice. The researchers will use preliminary data to apply for a larger grant from either the Russell Sage Foundation or W.T. Grant Foundation. Preliminary data will also result in recommendations for professional development workshops for faculty, staff and higher education administrators working with these diverse students. Other deliverables will include peer-reviewed articles, reports for the community colleges, and an intersectional microaggressions psychometrics scale to be used in the larger, longitudinal study funded through the external grant.