An exploration in phronesis and ethos: Transgressing boundaries of gender, ethnicity, and class for (non)traditional African American women
Waller, Wanda M.
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This qualitative study examines how phronesis enables nontraditional African American women students to construct ethos in their discourse by establishing the link between sociocultural factors in their social lives and their academic tenure. Five nontraditional African American women students provide narratives of their individual experiences as undergraduate students in writing classes. The themes which emerge from their oral narratives include: (1) identifying goals and purposes for themselves and their communities, (2) strategizing concurrent roles in their families, workplaces, and communities, (3) recognizing and confronting their subordinate status socially and academically, (4) engaging in social and academic relationships, and (5) developing rhetorical insights. Content analysis of the participants' narratives reveals that the interrelationship of gender, ethnicity, and class and their nontraditional student status are factors that inhibit their ability to establish credibility in their discourse. Findings suggest that the multidimensional aspects of phronesis, the deliberative, performative, and spiritual dimensions, enable the women to transcend the limitations of these inhibiting factors and establish ethos. Implications for students, faculty, and higher education administration point to the significance of relationship building strategies, acknowledgement of cultural and experiential knowledge claims, and development of positive classroom experiences for diverse student populations. Recommendations for future study are discussed.