What's White Privilege Got to Do With It? A Contemporary Understanding of Students' of Color Experiences in Higher Education

Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

Ken Williams


For students' of color, the ability to navigate themselves in an academic institution is hindered by many obstacles: race, interactions with the curriculum, and interactions with faculty. This is made harder at predominantly white institutions (PWI) as my investigation examined within this context will detail. The combination creates the notion of white privilege, the idea that benefits are given inherently to those who identify socially as white. This research sought to understand the effects of white privilege on a small sample of students' of color during their college experience in the United States.

This research explored how white privilege impacted students' of color in higher education. As such, the main question posed was: "What are students' of color perspectives on how white privilege might impact their experience at colleges in the United States?" This paper further investigated what aspects of their educational learning environment was impacted by white privilege, by delving into peer to peer interactions, students' of color perspectives on how white privilege might influence curricula and the student-faculty relationship.

The process for collecting data was a qualitative semi structured interview occurring over emailed correspondence. I created a composite of data used to help categorize and create emerging themes by using open and selective coding. The data was coded in such a way to maintain confidentiality. Similarly, interviews conducted allowed participant a pseudonym to protect their confidentiality.

Findings from this research demonstrated some of the challenges students' of color faced in their campus experience such as the desire for a deeper understanding of the intersection between race and privilege in classroom lectures and discussions, as well as the need for more professors of color.


African American Studies | African History | Asian American Studies | Asian History | Chicana/o Studies | Cultural History | Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Leadership | Ethnic Studies | Higher Education | History of Gender | Indigenous Studies | Latina/o Studies | Other American Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social History | United States History | Women's Studies

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