The purpose of this qualitative narrative research study was to interpret the meaning found throughout the formal educational experience stories of Native American, Asian American, and African American women born after 1944, who had earned an education doctorate degree after 1976, and were working with adults in an educational capacity within the community. Utilizing the snowball technique, 14 participants from across the United States volunteered to collaborate with the researcher. The study's conceptual framework included adult learning principles and practices, Nussbaum's 'narrative imagination,' which were used to examine the women's motivation to participate in an education doctorate program as well as the barriers, the enhancers, and the application of the degree in the community.
Data collected included an in-depth, face-to-face interview, two reflective narrative guides, document analysis, and researcher journals and analytic memos. All data was coded and analyzed with Atlas-ti 5.0 software, and thematic analyses completed in order to triangulate the data.
Six major themes for motivation to participate were found: self-awareness through placement in the family, family and community expectation in importance of education, personal strengths and weaknesses, perceived differences in the classroom and mainstream society, and knowledge of motivation to pursue doctorate. Five barriers emerged: racism, gender, advisers, institutional changes and problems, and juggling multiple roles in limited time. Five main enhancers arose: family and community foundation, financial, friends, and others which motivated participation. The women applied their doctorates through leadership activities in community-based organizations such as role modeling, mentoring, and other scholarly activities which advocated "giving back culturally," which was the ultimate meaning or value of the degree; however, achievement and credibility were also valued. Finishing their goal of earning a doctorate degree was "only a step in the process." This study provided a space for rich descriptive storytelling about each woman's successful experience pursing and completing an education doctorate program. Adult learning discussion of the findings, contributions to the literature, and recommendations for graduate education and future research were included.