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Underrepresented and Overexposed: BIPOC Experiences with Anti-Racist Efforts in Predominantly White Institutions

Lisa Macaruso, Johnson & Wales University


In the vacuity created by the global pandemic, George Floyd’s broadcasted murder regenerated the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and compelled a national conversation about racial injustice (Associated Press, 2020; Cullors et al., 2013). Institutions of higher education (IHE) immediately responded with anti-racist efforts spanning from action plans to graduation requirements, to presidential statements (Casellas Connors & McCoy, 2022). Researchers called for contemporary studies to advance scholarship by exploring the lived experiences and narratives of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) framed within contemporary social contexts (Harper, 2012; Ladson-Billings, 2005). Given that this phenomenon has just begun to be studied, a paucity of research explored the collective experiences of BIPOC college personnel amidst these efforts. Thus, the purpose of this qualitative hermeneutic phenomenological study was to probe how BIPOC college personnel ascribe meaning to anti-racist efforts published by their IHE (Kafle, 2013). The following overarching research question guided this study: RQ: What are the lived experiences of BIPOC college personnel employed by predominately White institutions (PWIs) as they ascribe meaning to the anti-racist efforts of their IHEs? Serving as the primary data source, participants (N=16) were purposefully selected for interviews based on three criteria: self-identification as BIPOC, currently working in PWIs, and continuous employment at a PWI from May of 2020 until time of response. Supplemental data included document/artifact analysis (N=20) of extant evidence regarding anti-racist narratives along with post-interview reflective questionnaires (N=16). Data from the interviews, reflective questionnaires, and document/artifacts were integrated and analyzed using a combination of a modified Moustakas (1994) and Giorgi (1997) phenomenological analysis strategies. Four themes emerged from their collective stories: (1) anti-racist efforts centered the White experience, (2) anti-racist efforts exhausted BIPOC college personnel, (3) anti-racist efforts were figurative, not fundamental, and (4) anti-racist efforts meaningful to BIPOC were deemed radical by the hegemony. Recommendations for anti-racist practice and policy may provide higher education practitioners with a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of those racially marginalized on campus and offer critical insights about how to develop transformative campus-wide inclusionary practices.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational administration|Adult education

Recommended Citation

Macaruso, Lisa, "Underrepresented and Overexposed: BIPOC Experiences with Anti-Racist Efforts in Predominantly White Institutions" (2023). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI30247948.