A Narrative Exploration of Racially Minoritized Mid-Level Student Affairs Administrators
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Despite the increasing racial diversity among college students, student affairs administrators overwhelmingly remain white. The scarcity of student affairs professionals of color poses a serious challenge to diversity and social justice efforts in college and universities who desire to build more supportive environments for students. Moreover, experiences of a critical group, the mid-level administrator, continues to be largely absent from the published organizational and higher education literature. Mid-level administrators are tasked with navigating hierarchical power differences among relationships with their supervisors, supervisees, and peers which leads to a challenging task often complicating workplace experience. Yet, research on leadership and organizational power often center white experiences and view leadership or followership in isolation. It also neglects the nuance of experiences of power from those having to do navigate organizations from the middle. As such, this study sought gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of racially/ethnically minoritized mid-level student affairs administrators. Through the lens of critical race theory and approach/inhibition/avoidance theory of power the narratives of seven administrators across the United States were explored. Participant narratives illustrated how individuals interact across the institution with supervisors, supervisees, students, and colleagues. Participants discussed the role of the local community and perceptions of racism from the surrounding area in which they live and further illuminated the impact of racism on their work and how they managed to cope. Finally, participants highlighted the ways racism and whiteness in the field of student affairs is reinforced through professional socialization and practice. This research highlights racism does not simply occur in student affairs administrative work but is baked into the process of student affairs. The findings from this study contribute to a limited body of knowledge that explicitly focuses on a crucial yet overlooked group of student affairs professionals. This study opens new lines of inquiry and how race and racism must be integrated into broader organizational analyses. Findings further illustrate the importance of recognizing implicit behaviors that serve to reinforce dominant white organizational norms.
Bazner, Kevin J (2020). A Narrative Exploration of Racially Minoritized Mid-Level Student Affairs Administrators. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from