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It All Started with a Picture: Reflections on Existing as Women of
Color in a PWI

Nichelle C. Robinson
University of Mississippi

Thea Williams-Black
Tougaloo College

Karen V. Smith
University of Mississippi

Alina Harges
University of Mississippi

The purpose of this paper was to examine
reflections of women of color in a predominately
White institution (PWI). Viewpoints were
gathered from three faculty members and one
graduate student of color. These women’s collective
and individual voices emphasized that we are no
longer “separate but equal,” but have evolved into
an “equal but not equitable” society and are trying
to figure out how to fix this problem. Real-life
results revealed that these faculty members and the
student have experienced difficulties in some way
based on implicit bias and equity at a PWI.
Furthermore, results indicated that equity is only
achieved when everyone is willing to admit that it
does not exist. Knowing this can transform culture
and forge inclusivity.


It all started with a picture posted to the univer-
sity homepage ticker, a picture of my dean and
School of Education (SOE) faculty and students
meeting with our new chancellor. Immediately, the
picture caught my attention because there was not
one face of color represented in a picture that was a
“representation” of the SOE. I agonized for weeks
over whether to address this picture with my dean
until I received a screenshot of the picture from one
of my students asking me, “What’s wrong with this
picture? Where is the diversity?” That text gave me
my answer. I had to address the message that the
picture was sending to our students of color with
our dean. My email to him about the picture
opened the door for addressing how African
American students and faculty felt they were being
marginalized in the SOE. Marginalization of people
of color is an everyday occurrence experienced by
most people of color in a variety of situations.
Gomez, Ocasio, Johnson-Lachuk, and Powell
(2015) pointed out in their study that staff members
they interviewed felt marginalized because of their

Correspondence should be sent to Nichelle C. Robinson,
School of Education, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
38677. E-mail: [email protected]

Multicultural Perspectives


Multicultural Perspectives, 21(1) 41–52
Copyright # 2019 by the National Association for Multicultural Education
ISSN: 1521-0960 print/1532-7892 online
DOI: 10.1080/15210960.2019.1573065

racial/ethnic backgrounds. They felt that their work
was often questioned and criticized by supervisors
and colleagues simply because they were minorities.
The question to be answered in this paper is as fol-
lows: How do we ensure equity for faculty, staff,
and students of color?

Review of the Literature

No one can argue that the fight for equality has
been won. We can now live, eat, play, go to school,
and shop wherever we’d like to do these things. We
are also able to legally marry whoever we want to
marry in many places. We’ve gained equality, but
the playing field is still far from even. It’s almost as
if we are no longer “separate but equal” but have
evolved into an “equal but not equitable” society.
The question now becomes, how do we fix this?
When analyzing the definitions of equity and equal-
ity, the focus of equity is fairness in how people are
treated, while equality focuses on people having the
same rights. In breaking these terms down, it must
be determined if having the same rights (equality)
matters if they are not distributed in a fair (equit-
able) manner.

According to Jacoby-Senghor, Sinclair, and
Shelton (2016) in a study they conducted on impli-
cit racial bias, implicit bias is unintentional, auto-
matic bias. The word unintentional is the key when
examining equity. Often times, people in authority
do not understand that they are acting in an unfair
manner toward people of color because they exhibit
unintentional bias. They are not purposely over-
looking people of color, but it is an automatic,
unconscious action that they are not aware exists.
This unawareness of actions has led to the equal
but not equitable society that was men-
tioned previously.

In a study conducted by Abdul-Raheem (2016),
the impact of having a diverse tenured faculty in
higher education was examined. There are several
conclusions listed below that are critical to develop-
ing equitable environments for diverse faculty and
students in higher education:

� When faculty is tenured and diverse, they have
more opportunity to advocate for equity for
diverse faculty and students.

� There are more White faculty members in posi-
tions of authority than diverse faculty members.

� Tenured faculty members feel more empowered
to advocate for cultural equality.

� Since more minority high school students are
graduating and entering college, more diverse fac-
ulty is needed in higher education.

� This increase in diverse faculty will directly
impact student success and comfort, the number
of minority mentors, minority research, and
equity advocacy, and all minority groups will
have a place at the table.

� Finally, diverse faculty who receive tenure and
good mentoring are more likely to remain with
an institution, which leads to promoting student
and institutional excellence.

In a similar study conducted by Absher (2009)
with women and minority faculty in Christian
higher education environments, it was found that
women and minorities are most satisfied with their
jobs when they have flexibility, security, and a posi-
tive and welcoming work environment.
Additionally, minorities also identified attractive
benefits packages and teaching load as important to
job satisfaction. These findings suggest that institu-
tions that focus on flexibility, security, and building
a positive work environment for women and minor-
ities are likely to attract and retain qualified women
and minority faculty. Minority faculty also indi-
cated opportunities to advance and scholarly sup-
port as significant to their job satisfaction.
Providing opportunities to involve minorities in
scholarly activities may also attract and retain them
as faculty. Specific ways to meet these needs include
the following: providing schedules that meet family
needs and provide flexibility; ensuring secure posi-
tions with competitive salary and benefits packages;
and involving these faculty members in meaningful
work, opportunities for professional growth, men-
toring, and a good department reputation. Absher
(2009) administered a confidential internet survey to
1,212 faculty members employed at Christian insti-
tutions in North America. Responses were com-
pared based on the faculty members’ gender and
ethnic background.

In their study, Zambrana et al. (2015) found that
there were four barriers to effective mentoring.
These barriers are benign neglect, feeling unin-
formed and unsupported, experiencing a patchwork
of mentors, and perceptions of limited understand-
ing and acceptance of their research agenda (p. 54).
Mentors who never met with their assigned underre-
presented faculty, left the university after a short
period, never provided them feedback on their
research, or acted as a supervisor versus as an
advisor were often matched with people of color.
Additionally, some mentors did not show interest in

The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education


their mentees’ area of research or simply did not
respect it. Underrepresented faculty also had to
piece together a variety of individuals to receive the
mentoring that they needed versus having one men-
tor that could assist them with all of their concerns.
Taking this approach to mentoring generated more
work for the mentees. Finally, faculty also found
that advisors tried to make their research topics
more acceptable to their White counterparts by
watering it down or trying to completely change the
topics of their research. These experiences often led
to diverse faculty feeling alienated from their men-
tors, which did not foster positive relationships or
work environments for these individuals. The con-
cerns and suggestions from the aforementioned
studies support the continued study of this topic
and clearly reveal that underrepresented faculty are
not experiencing equitable opportunities in PWIs.
An explanation of the current study is below.

Informal Survey Question

In order to prepare for the meeting with the
dean and associate dean, students and faculty of
color were informally surveyed about their experien-
ces in the School of Education. A mass email was
sent to former and current faculty and students of
color with the following question:

� How could the SOE improve your experiences as
faculty and students of color?

Ten students and four faculty members
responded to the survey question. Three of the stu-
dents are currently enrolled in the doctoral program
at this university and completed their bachelor’s,
master’s, and specialist’s degrees here as well. One
is a special education teacher in an urban school
district, one coordinates intervention at a middle
school, and one is a special education teacher at an
alternative school. The other seven undergraduate
students were either enrolled in our undergraduate
program or were recent graduates of our under-
graduate program. Three of the undergraduate
students were enrolled, three were in their first year
of student teaching in the local school district, and
one had been teaching for two years in the school
district where she student taught and was beginning
our master’s program. Four faculty members par-
ticipated in the survey: three who are currently
employed by the university and one who is no
longer with this university. Of the three who are
currently employed, one is a full professor and has
served as chair and associate dean in the School of
Education, one is an associate professor, and one is

a clinical assistant professor. Neither the associate
nor clinical assistant professors have served in
administrative positions. The faculty member who
left has served as a chair and dean at two different
historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU)
since leaving this university, which is a predomin-
ately White institution (PWI). All 14 respondents
were African American women.

This open-ended survey question identified several
concerns of faculty and students of color as well as
suggestions for improvement. Each participant’s
response was printed and read. After reading each
response, various colored highlighters were used to
highlight and color code similar responses between
all respondents. The informal survey question was
intended to gather information to share with the
dean and associate dean. It was not intended to be
the basis of a formal research study. Once the infor-
mation was gathered and organized into charts to be
presented, it was then realized that the information
could be shared beyond the School of Education.

When examining the responses of those surveyed,
five clear themes were identified. Faculty and stu-
dents felt that the following were concerns: recruit-
ment and retention, student and faculty support,
inclusive programing, implicit bias, and lack of
minorities in administrative positions. Additionally,
perspectives and perceptions for all respondents
were examined through follow-up questions in per-
son, through email, and through phone calls to
ensure accuracy in the interpretation of the
responses that were given.

Black Feminism in the Academy

Three of the faculty members as well as a gradu-
ate student provided further reflection on their
existence as women of color in this PWI through
their personal narratives. The personal narratives
below extend the respondents’ answers to the survey
question and provide a tool to analyze their experi-
ences as a group and individually (Wallace, Moore,
& Curtis, 2014). In these reflections, the hope is to
express their experiences as three African American
women faculty existing in a PWI and as an African
American female doctoral candidate. An additional
goal is to share what was learned from these experi-
ences and the findings that resulted based on what
was learned (Wallace et al., 2014).

When exploring Black feminism/thought, Patricia
Hill Collins’s premier work on Black feminist
thought must be explored. According to Hill
Collins (1990), it is necessary that one’s personal
narrative be used in research studies because it

Multicultural Perspectives Vol. 21, No. 1


clearly explains where an individual stands, espe-
cially one who is marginalized in higher education
(as cited in Wallace et al., 2014). This approach to
research allows analyses of race, class, and gender
that are distinct and authentic. Hill Collins’s pri-
mary objective in her work on Black feminist
thought was to “describe, analyze, explain the sig-
nificance of, and contribute to the development of
Black feminist thought as critical social theory” (as
cited in Cooper, 2015). Dotson (2015) in her assess-
ment of Hill Collins’s work stated that as an epis-
temologist, Black Feminist Thought gave her hope
and was an inheritance map of the work that she
had been given and work that still needed to be
done. She famously stated that Black Feminist
Thought was a “balm to her soul” (Dotson, 2015).

Cooper (2015) assessed the various theories
around Black feminist thought and how it did or did
not evolve over the years since Hill Collins’s initial
work. She echoed Dotson’s assessment by declaring
unequivocally that Hill Collins’s work created a
space for Black feminist theory/thought as a field of
inquiry in the academy because her purpose was to
find a solution that would connect Black feminist
politics and theory (Cooper, 2015). Cooper (2015)
espoused the validity of Hill Collins’s seminal work
because it set the foundation for the exploration of
the ways Black women exist through Black sexual
and queer studies as well as how race and gender are
presented in popular culture. Cooper argued that
Black feminist theory must be reinvigorated and
reanimated. Hill Collins (2015) in a more recent art-
icle supported this argument by stating “as long as
the social injustices that catalyzed black feminism
continue, the need for black feminist thought will
also persist. Black feminism comes with no guaran-
tees” (p. 2,354).

The hope in this article is that the power of the
collective and individual voices of the African
American women who responded to the survey
question and who shared their personal reflections
on existing as women of color at this PWI will
become a part of “reinvigorating and reanimating”
Black feminist thought. The power of these African
American women’s thoughts is expressed through
their fourteen survey responses and the four per-
sonal narratives below. The responses and narra-
tives reflect their experiences existing as women of
color at this PWI. The only way the story of their
experiences at this PWI can adequately be told is in
their personal voices. Likert survey responses can
share pertinent and relevant information about their
experiences, but they cannot adequately tell the
story of their lived experiences at this PWI.


The Struggle Is Real: A Nontenured Faculty
Member’s Story

There are days when I wonder about my role
and my future as a woman of color at my current
PWI SOE. I was raised in the state of Mississippi. I
obtained my bachelor’s degree with honors from a
small, private historically Black college (HBCU);
my MBA degree from a large, Black, public land-
grant institution; and my PhD from a large, pre-
dominately White, public land-grant institution. I
have worked with diverse people in MANY diverse
situations. One of my passions is diversity in educa-
tion. Specifically, I incorporate my experiences from
East Africa in my current classroom. I want my stu-
dents to understand various points of view and pro-
mote critical thinking in the classroom. Finally, I
want to be a role model for students who look like
me, as well as those who don’t.

A Black sorority at my current PWI honored me.
The senior young ladies selected people who had
made an impact on them as undergraduate students.
The student who spoke about me stated that I was
the first Black professor that she had. She said,
“This professor doesn’t know this, but I’m a senior
and almost graduated without ever having a profes-
sor that looked like me.” . . . She said that she was
“proud” to see a Black professor behind the podium
in class for the first time. She said that seeing me
helped her to realize that she could achieve anything
in life. I was so humbled by this student’s speech. I
am here at this institution for students like her. My
department rarely addresses the lack of role models
for students of color and the issue is often swept
under the rug. Despite the difficulties of being a
woman of color at this PWI, I choose to focus on
broadening students’ intellectual perspectives and
developing the leaders of tomorrow. I nurture and
appreciate world cultures and instill in my students
the desire to do so. As a woman of color existing in
a PWI, I welcome diversity and inclusivity and
incorporate it into my teachings. It is greatly needed
in academic settings where the graduates will ultim-
ately become future teachers.

Why I Left: A Tenured Faculty Member’s Story

My eyes were opened when I began my tenure as
a woman of color at a PWI in Mississippi. I always
knew I wanted to be an educator. After graduating
from a small, private HBCU, I knew I wanted to
earn my doctorate degree and return to my beloved

The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education


Eagle Queen and/or an HBCU to teach or be an
administrator in education. My goals were all
mapped out and beginning to line up. I graduated
with my doctorate from a PWI in south Mississippi.
I went on to work at PWIs in south Louisiana and
Virginia. Even though I had experiences of racism
as a woman of color at these institutions, they were
nothing like what I encountered when I decided to
work at a PWI in Mississippi. I encountered stu-
dents who dropped my class once they found out I
was an African American instructor. In one particu-
lar incident, a White middle-aged, nontraditional
student entered my class. She said, “You are not. . .
.” I replied with a smile, “No, I’m a new professor
and will be teaching this class.” The look she gave
me as she said, “No Black person can teach me
anything” let me know that I was back in
Mississippi. I tried not to allow this incident as well
as others to affect my teaching or desire for all of
my students to excel. Regardless of my students’
ethnic background, I wanted them all to excel.

In addition to the incidents with students, there
were the faculty meetings, the meetings where fac-
ulty collaborated. It was then I realized my input as
a woman of color in this PWI was not valued,
heard, or appreciated by my White colleagues. I
recall being in a faculty meeting, I cannot remember
the topic, but I provided valuable input. As we con-
tinued to discuss the topic, my input was not
acknowledged. Then it happened: a White faculty
member said exactly what I said and the room was
in awe! “That’s a great idea. We must implement
it,” but no acknowledgment that I spoke the idea
first. With a look of disappointment, that’s when I
knew, as a woman of color, that I didn’t fit in and
wasn’t going to excel at this PWI. I knew then my
goal of being an administrator at this institution
was very slim because the pieces of the puzzle I pos-
sessed did not fit. Years later I am now a depart-
ment chair of elementary education at an HBCU in
central Mississippi. My experiences as a woman of
color at all the PWIs assisted and molded me to be
the administrator and educator I am today.

How I Felt: A Student’s Story

As a minority student and woman of color at a
PWI, there have been many situations that caused
me to have feelings of inferiority. Seeing the picture
of the professors, alongside the dean, with an all-
White leadership committee representing the School
of Education was one of those moments. My rea-
sons for feeling inferior at this instant were as fol-
lows: I am a graduate student and woman of color

who has experienced and witnessed the dedication,
professionalism, and accomplishments of the few
African American professors at this institution.
The picture was not representative of the African
American students or professors of color in the
SOE. The image led me to question if African
Americans really have a place here. Last, I felt
uncomfortable because a lot of what I think and
feel about being disregarded as a student and
woman of color was validated after seeing
the picture.

I have had the opportunity to engage in several
professional presentations because one of my
African American professors, who is a woman of
color, saw enough in me to include me in her
research projects. My professor graduated from the
university and has worked diligently to build the
capacity of students regardless of their background.
Not seeing her in this picture was heartbreaking for
me because I felt she and other African American
professors should have been selected as leaders to
represent the SOE. Therefore, I took it upon myself
to screenshot the picture and ask, “What is wrong
with this picture?” because the idea of not seeing
one African American professor represented, in a
school which embarks upon a mission of teaching
diversity, was wrong. Seeing the picture was the
perfect opportunity, as a student and woman of
color existing in this PWI, to shed light on what it
looks like to marginalize and misrepresent African
Americans in the SOE.

Why I Took the Unspoken Charge

It was a typical day. I was going to the university
website to begin my day with checking email and
Blackboard assignments. And there it was, a picture
of the dean with his leadership team going across
the ticker. As I looked at the picture, I thought,
where are the people of color? I had to admit as an
African American faculty member and woman of
color that the picture on the ticker did not make
me feel good. Additionally, I had to admit that
making that admission to myself was not enough.
In order to make this moment matter, I would have
to illustrate to my dean how this picture with no
people of color was an issue for students and fac-
ulty of color in the SOE. That one email sent to my
dean expressing how the picture made me feel has
set a chain reaction in motion. My dean responded
to my email and the results are as follows.

My dean stated that he and the associate dean
held my same concern about the lack of students
and faculty of color. He also requested that the

Multicultural Perspectives Vol. 21, No. 1


three of us meet to share our ideas about how to
rectify this problem, and, most important, he had the
picture removed from the ticker. In addition to the
dean’s actions, I was also moved to action. Instead
of developing all of the ideas on my own, I surveyed
African American students and faculty about what
their experiences in the SOE were. I identified many
concerns as well as suggestions for improvement to
share with my dean. I took this charge for the rea-
sons stated by Jacoby-Senghor et al. (2016); I am
now a tenured professor and feel much more com-
fortable, as a woman of color at a PWI, expressing
my concerns about equity and diversity issues. As a
third-generation college graduate and educator who
has earned three degrees from this institution and
who stands on the shoulders of an African American
father and grandfather who helped integrate the high
school in their small Mississippi hometown, I knew it
was now time for me, as a woman of color existing
in this PWI, to move this charge forward and trans-
form the culture in our SOE.

These reflections illustrate experiences of four
women of color in this PWI, three faculty members
and one doctoral candidate. Their frustrations are
heard through their reflections. Their collective and
individual voices are lifted loudly. They are saying:
we are here, we matter, and our voices count.
Many of the frustrations shared by these four
reflections are echoed through participants in a
study conducted by Gomez et al. (2015). In inter-
views conducted with staff of color at a PWI in the
Midwest, staff of color perceived that their White
colleagues, students, and supervisors often ques-
tioned their ability and judgment (2015). This sup-
ports statements made by all three faculty that they
felt unsupported by supervisors and not valued by
colleagues or supervisors. Additionally, it supports
the student’s reflection that not seeing faculty of
color on the leadership team made her question if
she actually belonged at this university. Finally,
these reflections express the same thoughts as the
staff of color interviewed by Gomez et al. (2015);
they would like their talents, abilities, and skills rec-
ognized by their colleagues, students, and supervi-
sors while being involved in the “real” decision-
making of the university. Several themes that relate
to the study in the Midwest will be examined in the
discussion below.


Several themes in the concerns and suggestions
shared by those who were surveyed were identified.

The themes are as follows:

� Recruitment and retention
� Support
� Inclusive programming
� Implicit bias
� Administrative positions

Recruitment and Retention

All faculty and students surveyed in this SOE
stated that there is a need to recruit more diverse
faculty and students. One undergraduate student
specifically stated, “Being one of only a few minor-
ity students can be intimidating. [A] person has to
be mentally prepared to complete this program.”
Additionally, faculty cited that there is a lack of
effort by search committees to bring minority job
candidates to campus. This is definitely a recruit-
ment issue when trying to diversify faculty for the
School of Education. Undergraduate and graduate
students who responded to the survey question also
noted that Praxis 1 (now Praxis Core) and 2 pre-
vented many students from moving forward in and
graduating from the education program, which is
definitely a retention issue. While the faculty and
students who were surveyed voiced their concerns,
they also shared many suggestions.

The faculty and students both identified a need
for mentoring for faculty and students as a method
to retain diverse faculty and students. Students and
faculty also made some specific suggestions
for mentoring:

� Set up African American round tables with class-
room teachers experiencing success in the class-
room (graduate student suggestion).

� Provide shadowing opportunities and structure
for minority practicing teachers so that they
receive Continuing Education Unit credit when
they shadow (faculty suggestion).

� Identify minority education majors during their
freshman year and include them in all programs,
support groups, etc. (faculty suggestion).

In addition to the retention suggestions, faculty
and students also had many recruitment

� Use service learning/volunteer opportunities to
recruit minorities into education with special
emphasis on recruiting African American males
(graduate student suggestion).

The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education


� Partner with high schools to identify minority
students interested in education and allow them
to shadow faculty (faculty suggestion).

� Actively recruit minority faculty and ensure that
those candidates receive a fair chance with the
search committee (faculty suggestion).

� Commit to replacing minority faculty that leave
the university for other jobs with other minority
faculty members (faculty suggestion).

In a study conducted by Saenz, Wyatt, and
Reinard (1998), after surveying 199 minority and
nonminority undergraduate and graduate students
in communicative disorders at California State
University, Fullerton, it was found that minority
and nonminority students had more differences
than ethnicity or race. It was found that minority
students had more interest in student services and
support, more teacher contact, assistance with study
and test-taking skills, faculty mentoring, and finan-
cial aid information than their nonminority peers.
Additionally, measures were put in place to address
mentoring, such as assigning faculty advisors, hold-
ing flexible office hours, showing concern for stu-
dents, and developing a clinical orientation program
to ensure that students were aware of the expecta-
tions of clinical practicum. A faculty member was
also responsible for developing faculty-student men-
toring relationships. Efforts to recruit more diverse
faculty were also made. As a result of these efforts,
three of nine faculty members belong to minority
groups. Attention to these factors led to a signifi-
cant increase in the number of undergraduate and
graduate minority students between 1992 (19%
undergraduate and 14.3% graduate) and 1997
(41.5% undergraduate and 34.4% graduate).

Dittmer (2017) in a similar study found that a
desire to work with students and being in a collegial
and welcoming atmosphere aided in retaining
minority faculty. Participants enjoyed being able to
work closely with students, working with their col-
leagues, and feeling accepted by their colleagues.
Several responses to the survey question adminis-
tered to faculty and students of color in this School
of Education (SOE) related to recruitment and
retention and the findings in both of these studies.
Faculty and students of color identified a strong
need for mentoring as a way to retain faculty and
students of color. Additionally, faculty identified a
need for the SOE search committees to commit to
widening the net to ensure a diverse applicant pool.
Next, the theme of support will be investigated
and analyzed.


Faculty and students of color in this SOE identi-
fied support concerns for both groups. Specifically,
one of the graduate students stated, “Can’t trust
nonminority professors because there is a lack of
support from them.” All four faculty members who
were surveyed echoed this concern by collectively
pointing out that students of color are not sup-
ported by the School of Education. Undergraduate
and graduate students also cited students being
unable to move forward in their education pro-
grams because of not passing Praxis 1 and 2 as a
support concern. Finally, all faculty surveyed cited
a need for mentorship for faculty of color. Faculty
and students provided many suggestions to assist
with these concerns. Those suggestions were
as follows.

Student Suggestions.
� Provide a program or study sessions that will pre-

pare students to take Praxis 1 or 2 as well as
study sessions for course work (graduate stu-
dent suggestion).

� Meet with clinical instructors to ensure that they
know that minority students in the field are sup-
ported by their university supervisors (under-
graduate student suggestion).

� African American students need a go-to person
that they can talk to about their issues/concerns
that they feel cannot be discussed with nonminor-
ity professors (undergraduate and graduate stu-
dents made this suggestion).

Faculty Suggestions.
� Develop a mentoring program that pairs minority

students with minority SOE faculty or minority
clinical instructors who finished our programs.

� Develop an ongoing focus group with minority
faculty/students to ascertain their needs.

� Provide support for course work and Praxis 1 or
2 to minority students who are struggling (also a
student suggestion above).

� Faculty-led support group for minority students.

Zambrana et al. (2015) conducted a study about
mentoring underrepresented faculty in an intensive
research environment. Participants were interviewed
and engaged in focus groups and completed a
descriptive survey once the interview/focus groups
were completed. They were asked six questions that
focused on their personal mentoring relationships.
After analyzing participants’ responses, four themes
were identified in regards to mentoring: impact of

Multicultural Perspectives Vol. 21, No. 1


mentors across the life course (K–20 educational
years), barriers to effective mentoring, ideal mentor-
ing, and political guidance. These themes closely
related to concerns from the faculty respondents
who were surveyed from this SOE. Faculty
respondents were concerned by a lack of mentor-
ship for minority faculty, and they suggested devel-
oping mentoring relationships for faculty and
students as well as ongoing focus groups for minor-
ity faculty and students.

In a similar study conducted by Kosoko-Lasaki,
Sonnino, and Voytko (2006) with women and
underrepresented faculty and students who partici-
pated in mentoring programs implemented for them
at Creighton University and Creighton University
School of Medicine, there were many positive find-
ings. Senior undergraduate students mentored jun-
ior students, and faculty mentored medical students.
Students expressed that the mentoring was helpful
to them and that they were glad they joined the
program. All of the mentees felt that their mentors
helped them professionally and agreed that the
mentoring program provided opportunities to inter-
act with their peers and develop camaraderie with
them. These findings directly support responses of
faculty and students of color at this SOE that stu-
dents would benefit from more support from the
department as well as an official mentoring pro-
gram. In addition to support, inclusive programing
was also identified as a theme through faculty and
student of color responses. It will be further exam-
ined below.

Inclusive Programming

While faculty and students of color in this SOE
did not cite any concerns about inclusive program-
ming, they did share a variety of suggestions to
assist with developing inclusive programming. Their
suggestions are below.

Student Suggestions.
� Course on how to meet needs (cultural and aca-

demic) of African American students; we need a
diversity/multicultural course in undergraduate
and graduate programs (graduate stu-
dent suggestion).

� Special group that caters to African American/
minority students in education program (this was
identified by both undergraduate and gradu-
ate students).

� Course on cultural sensitivities/place for safe,
open discussions about race/diversity that will
make all (professors, clinical instructors, students)

aware/conscious of their actions/responses to
others (graduate student suggestion).

Faculty Suggestions.
� Diversity workshop/sensitivity training over sev-

eral dates for SOE faculty/staff (this suggestion
was also made by students above).

� Facilitate a week-long exchange program with a
HBCU teacher education program in the state.

� Develop a sense of inclusiveness for students and
faculty through special programs throughout the
academic year (another suggestion echoed by stu-
dents above).

� Reestablish the faculty diversity committee.

In a paper that detailed how the University of
Maryland–Baltimore County (UMBC) developed
inclusive programs, Hrabowski (2014) shared four
strategies in particular that addressed the sugges-
tions that were given. These strategies are as fol-
lows: focus on societal issues in light of
demographic changes; increase access and success;
develop a scholars program that produces future
researchers; and focus on societal problems/course
redesigns/success in introductory classes. Hrabowski
(2014) suggested that as the demographic land-
scapes for universities change, universities must pro-
vide professional development to faculty on how to
meet the needs of their diverse students. He further
stated that faculty must examine their own attitudes
and make sure that they are welcoming and sup-
portive of their diverse students. His second sugges-
tion focused on increasing access and success. He
suggested that this is obtained by encouraging
“open communication about key questions; honesty
about strengths and challenges; and developing
innovative strategies and initiatives that focus on
programs that encourage students to connect with
each other and with members of the faculty and
staff” (Hrabowski, 2014, p. 296).

Hrabowski’s (2014) third suggestion focused on
developing a successful scholars program. The pro-
gram (Meyerhoff Scholars Program) developed at
UMBC over 20 years ago has graduated hundreds
of underrepresented minority students who com-
pleted STEM PhDs or pursued STEM postgraduate
degrees. Some benefits of this program for minority
students involved the following: students studying
in groups was encouraged; centers for tutoring were
strengthened; faculty were encouraged to give feed-
back early and often; and a focus was placed on
providing support to students throughout their
freshman year. Hrabowski’s suggestions clearly con-
nect to the suggestions made by the students of
color from this SOE, including examining and

The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education


developing new courses that will address diversity,
providing a safe space to discuss race/sensitive
issues, involving all faculty in sensitivity training
over a period of time, and developing an affinity
group to address the needs of students of color.
The theme of implicit bias was identified and will
be explored below.

Implicit Bias

There were many faculty and student concerns
about implicit bias, but only two faculty suggestions
were given. Concerns for this theme did not overlap
between faculty and students. The concerns shared
were specific to each group. Below are three specific
student quotes that illustrate their concerns with
faculty behavior toward them in classes:

� “Professors make minority students uncomfort-
able because they are unable to relate to minority
students and their beliefs/customs” (graduate stu-
dent concern).

� “Racist behavior displayed by clinical instructors
in placements toward minority student teachers
(need a chain of command/go-to person to report
these types of concerns)” (undergraduate stu-
dent concern).

� “Offensive comments made in class by professors
but professors seem unaware that their comments
are offensive” (undergraduate student concern).

Faculty concerns were as follows:

� “Faculty feel like a quota (i.e., be seen and
not heard).”

� Voices often go unheard in meetings (depart-
ment/SOE); for example, comments made by
minority faculty in meetings are often overlooked
or dismissed, but the same comments made by a
nonminority faculty member are recognized,
embraced, and commended (a concern voiced by
all four faculty members who responded to the
survey question).

Only one faculty suggestion was shared in
regards to implicit bias. The suggestion stated,
“People need to be more open-minded towards dif-
ferences and open to change in the SOE.” While
only one suggestion was made, many of the sugges-
tions from the aforementioned studies would benefit
this SOE. In their study that simulated classroom-
teaching situations between majority instructors and
mixed-classroom settings with a large number of
minority students Jacoby-Senghor et al. (2016)
pointed out several interesting findings in regards to
identity threat and expectancy confirmation toward

African American students. Three points that
impact these students’ performance in classes with
majority instructors who exhibit implicit bias are
listed as follows:

� African American students perform worse when
majority instructors exhibit anxiety and teach
lower quality lessons because of their impli-
cit bias.

� As a result of the students’ poor performance,
their identity is threatened and they question
whether they belong, which further hurts their
performance in this class.

� The students’ poor performance then leads to the
instructor’s low expectations of the students as
well as them administering lower evaluations of
student work.

The final conclusion from this research suggested
that minority students are less successful and their
well-being is impacted negatively when implicit
racial bias is exhibited by their instructors. The
findings from this study and others open opportuni-
ties to reduce racial inequities for students in higher
education (Jacoby-Senghor et al., 2016).

Jackson, Hillard, and Schneider (2014) conducted
a study that investigated the effect of gender diver-
sity training on faculty’s implicit and explicit atti-
tudes toward women in STEM. Faculty from a
variety of STEM departments on campus partici-
pated. The experimental and control groups were
administered implicit and explicit measures. After
completing these measures, the experimental group
participated in 30-minute diversity training presen-
tations, while the control group attended the regu-
larly scheduled faculty meeting. After conducting
the study it was found that men’s implicit associa-
tions improved and were more positive after partici-
pating in diversity training. This finding reduces
stereotypes toward women in STEM and creates a
more welcoming climate for women in STEM.

Statements that centered on implicit bias were
also identified through the survey questions admin-
istered for this SOE and closely relate to the preced-
ing studies. Student concerns about nonminority
professors not understanding them or making offen-
sive comments in class definitely impact how well
students will perform in a course for that instructor
as well as the expectations that those instructors
hold for those students. Concurrently, faculty of
color concerns about their voices being heard in the
SOE illustrates the need for professional develop-
ment workshops focusing on implicit bias and being
culturally responsive, as the second study indicated
that men’s implicit associations improved after a

Multicultural Perspectives Vol. 21, No. 1


30-minute diversity training session. Administrative
positions were also identified as a theme and will be
explored next.

Administrative Positions

Two student concerns and one faculty concern
were listed in regards to administrative positions.
These statements did not overlap between faculty
and students and were specific to each group. An
undergraduate student felt that a go-to person for
minority students is needed because of racist behav-
ior exhibited by clinical instructors toward minority
students placed in the field. Another student felt
that there needs to be more recognition of minority
students’ accomplishments and felt that this would
happen if there were more administrators and fac-
ulty of color in the SOE. Faculty as a whole men-
tioned that there is a lack of minority faculty in
leadership positions in the SOE. No faculty of color
in the SOE holds a positions such as dean, associ-
ate/assistant dean, chair, or assistant chair. Only
one student suggestion was made in regards to
administrative positions. It stated, “African
American students need a go-to person that they
can talk to about their issues/concerns that they feel
cannot be discussed with nonminority professors.”

A study conducted by Perna, Gerald, Baum, and
Milem (2007) examined the status of African
American faculty and administrators in higher edu-
cation in the South. It was found that public higher
education in the South remains highly inequitable
for African Americans. Additionally, depending on
the rank, administrative position, type of school
(PWI v. HBCU), and state in the South, the
amount of equity has decreased for many African
Americans since studies conducted on equity in
the 1990s.

In analyzing the body of research on this topic,
Wolfe and Patterson Dilworth (2015) found that
while progress has been made for people of color in
higher education, there are still many unanswered
questions in regards to people of color in higher
education administration. Some of these lingering
questions are as follows: How do African American
administrators continue in their careers in PWIs
without access to the privileges of their majority
colleagues? How do they develop a will to persist in
spite of the challenges? What factors do they intern-
alize from their institutional culture and how does
this hinder their opportunities to move up in
their careers?

Several suggestions to address these questions
were made: focus on transforming the culture by

adopting the values of cultural pluralism and multi-
culturalism in order to create more diverse leaders
and a more inclusive environment; promote institu-
tional policies that will encourage transformation in
retaining African American administrators and
advance equity; and finally, continue to research
diversity leadership in higher education because the
body of information on this topic is limited. Both
of these studies address student and faculty of color
concerns at this SOE that there are no minority fac-
ulty in positions of leadership in the SOE and that
minority students need a go-to person to discuss
their concerns. Theme statements will be briefly
summarized below.

Summary of Theme Statements

When analyzing these themes and statements, it
was found that recruitment, retention, and support
of minority faculty and students were the greatest
concerns. Within these concerns and suggestions,
many overlapped among undergraduate/graduate
students of color and faculty of color. Specifically,
all three groups are concerned with recruiting more
minority students and faculty, mentoring minority
faculty and students, and providing support net-
works for students. Additionally, some statements
could be placed in two categories. The statement
about Praxis 1 and 2 concerns was categorized with
recruitment and retention as well as with support.
The statement about racist behavior and needing a
go-to person was categorized with implicit bias and
administrative positions. Finally, the statement that
African American students need a go-to person was
categorized as support and administrative positions.
Concurrently, it must be noted that the majority of
the students who were surveyed viewed their experi-
ence in the SOE positively in follow-up emails, con-
versations, or phone calls. The suggestions that they
shared would have made their experiences
even better.

Several conclusions can be reached upon further
analysis of the themes that were identified in this
study. The first conclusion is that in order to recruit
and retain students and faculty of color, support
programs that involve mentoring for both must be
an integral part of any university program.
Professional development on meeting the needs of
diverse students and faculty is necessary and bene-
fits faculty and students. Faculty and students
thrive in positive, welcoming, inclusive environ-
ments. Redesigning curricula in a way that meets
the needs of diverse learners benefits all students
and increases academic achievement. More people

The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education


of color are still needed in leadership roles in higher
education and this topic should be continuously
researched. All of the themes identified through the
faculty and student statements were a great starting
point to begin transforming the culture for all fac-
ulty, staff, students, and administrators in the SOE.

Let’s Transform the Culture

What began as a complaint became the spring-
board to transformation in the SOE. At the end of
the conversation with the dean and associate dean,
the idea of a diversity officer for the SOE was pre-
sented. This was an unexpected part of the conver-
sation. Since and even before becoming tenured,
I always felt that there had to be a voice for those
who felt they had no voice. I entered that conversa-
tion that day as the voice. There was no expectation
of moving into a new position. Working with the
dean and associate dean in this position has already
begun the process of addressing many of the faculty
and student concerns and suggestions. The table
below shares activities being planned or those that
have been completed as the result of a picture and
a conversation (Table 1).

Findings from a study conducted by Boatright-
Horowitz, Frazier, Harps-Logan, and Crockett
(2013) supported many of the ideas implemented
(or that will be implemented) and examined college
students’ understandings of White privilege and
racism. They found that when students are exposed
to racism examples, personal understanding is facili-
tated. As a result of this new understanding, it was
concluded that providing opportunities for conver-
sations about privilege among various groups is
effective and needed. Concurrently, this same study
found that after White students’ exposure to White
privilege, they were more likely to recognize that
racism still exists and impacts their behavior. As a
result, these students indicated that they would join
student organizations and attend events that reduce
racism (Boatright-Horowitz et al., 2013). These
statements directly support the implementation of
speakers and workshops that focus on implicit bias
and culturally responsive teaching, developing five
new courses that focus on diversity, and developing
a Mississippi NAME chapter that “all” students
can join. A study conducted by Jackson et al.
(2014) also supported the implementation of speak-
ers and workshops about implicit bias and

Table 1. Activities planned and implemented during 2016–2017

Ideas implemented Themes addressed

� A speaker on implicit bias spoke to our faculty, students, and university community. � Implicit bias
� Inclusive programming

� Professional development workshops conducted with faculty and students on implicit bias. � Implicit bias
� Inclusive programming

� Contact was made with high school minority students interested in education through
participation in the MOST Conference. This conference focuses on introducing high school
students of color to our university. Participated in several community college
recruiting visits.

� Recruitment and retention

� Professional development workshops on culturally responsive teaching conducted with
faculty and students.

� Inclusive programming

� Five new courses focusing on diversity created by faculty. Courses will provide a new
diversity emphasis area for teacher education specialist’s and doctorate degree programs.

� Inclusive programming

� Junior-level teacher education courses will be analyzed to ensure that they are adequately
addressing and implementing culturally responsive practices.

� Inclusive programming

� Core Ensemble diversity performances for SOE faculty and students and the university
community sponsored by SOE for Black and Women’s History Months.

� Inclusive programming

� SOE math education professor in conjunction with the School of Engineering and Center
for Inclusion held a special viewing of Hidden Figures in The Grove with
discussion afterwards.

� Inclusive programming

� Mississippi state chapter of NAME approved. Moving NAME forward in Mississippi. � Support
� Inclusive programming

� Applying for grants to develop scholarship and mentoring programs to assist in ensuring
that the teachers in the state of Mississippi are representative of the K–12
student population.

� Recruitment and retention
� Support

� Faculty worked together to develop three recruitment goals each for faculty and students
of color.

� Recruitment and retention

� Implicit bias awareness materials developed to assist faculty during searches. � Recruitment and retention
� Implicit bias

� School of Education (SOE) Diversity Officer appointed. � Administrative position
Note. These are only a few of the projects that have been planned or implemented. There are many more in the works, but the most
important work has been listed in this table.

Multicultural Perspectives Vol. 21, No. 1


culturally responsive teaching for faculty. It was
found in this study that 30-minute presentations on
implicit bias improved male faculty’s attitudes
toward women in STEM. The effectiveness of the
presentations can be attributed to discussing the
awareness of implicit bias (Dr. Reese lecture); shar-
ing information that recognizes and appreciates dif-
ferences (Mr. Steve Becton workshops with faculty
and students); and use of nonconfrontational lan-
guage during the presentations (both presenters
illustrated the point that we all carry biases and
emphasized that it is okay to be different). These
studies support the approach implemented by the
SOE Diversity Office.

In analyzing the ideas that have or will be imple-
mented, it was found that every theme identified
from the statements provided by faculty and stu-
dents of color has been or will be addressed. The
hope is that these initiatives and programs will
build bridges and an inclusive environment where
everyone feels that they belong, their voices are
heard, and their cultures matter.


This new focus on ensuring that an “equal but
not equitable” society no longer exists has ignited a
new civil rights movement for many. The killing of
African Americans by the police, a polarizing presi-
dential election, stereotyping of immigrants and
Muslims, and a variety of racial incidents on college
campuses across the country have contributed to
this new movement. “A new civil rights movement
encompasses more than moral reform, more than
workshops on racism, more than classes to uncover
students’ personal colorblind ideology. A new civil
rights movement must engage personal and collect-
ive action comprising Whites and persons of color
working in coalition with one another to end the
new racism as well as tandem forms of oppression
such as poverty, unemployment, and mass incarcer-
ation” (Gomez et al., 2015, p. 693). Equity can only
be achieved when everyone is willing to admit that
it does not exist. Based on this examination, it can
be concluded that equal does not mean equitable,
but equity can be achieved when administrators are
willing to take the risk to transform culture and
forge inclusivity.


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The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education


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  • mkchap1573065_artid
    • Introduction
    • Review of the Literature
      • Informal Survey Question
      • Black Feminism in the Academy
    • Reflections
      • The Struggle Is Real: A Nontenured Faculty Members Story
      • Why I Left: A Tenured Faculty Members Story
      • How I Felt: A Students Story
      • Why I Took the Unspoken Charge
    • Discussion
      • Recruitment and Retention
      • Support
        • Student Suggestions
        • Faculty Suggestions
      • Inclusive Programming
        • Student Suggestions
        • Faculty Suggestions
      • Implicit Bias
      • Administrative Positions
      • Summary of Theme Statements
      • Lets Transform the Culture
    • Conclusion
    • References


Example Reference Format

Baker, V. L., & Pifer, M. J. (2011). The role of relationships in the transition from doctor to independent scholar. Studies in Continuing Education, 33(1), 5-17. 2010.515569

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