Journal of Nursing Education

An Education in Racism

Dena Hassouneh-Phillips, PhD, RNC, ANP; Ann Beckett, PhD, RN



Lack of diversity in nursing doctoral programs compromises the quality of doctoral education and perpetuates the shortage of faculty of color in nursing schools. To help understand the contexts that contribute to this lack of diversity, this study examined the experiences of 9 women of color in nursing doctoral programs. The aim of the study was to describe the experiences, challenges, and understandings of women of color in nursing doctoral programs. Analysis of interview data revealed that racism was a pervasive and harmful influence on participants and that this influence was largely invisible to EuroAmerican faculty and students. These findings highlight the need for faculty and students to critically reflect on their own racism as an important first step in challenging the status quo of racism in nursing education.



Lack of diversity in nursing doctoral programs compromises the quality of doctoral education and perpetuates the shortage of faculty of color in nursing schools. To help understand the contexts that contribute to this lack of diversity, this study examined the experiences of 9 women of color in nursing doctoral programs. The aim of the study was to describe the experiences, challenges, and understandings of women of color in nursing doctoral programs. Analysis of interview data revealed that racism was a pervasive and harmful influence on participants and that this influence was largely invisible to EuroAmerican faculty and students. These findings highlight the need for faculty and students to critically reflect on their own racism as an important first step in challenging the status quo of racism in nursing education.

"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."

~ Audre Lorde (cited in Humbolt State University, n.d.)

In its position statement on Diversity and Equality of Opportunity, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) (1997) called for an accelerated inclusion of "groups, cultures and ideas that traditionally have been underrepresented in higher education" (U 2). The AACN joins many other nursing organizations and nursing schools in highlighting the need for increased diversity within the nursing profession (AACN, 1997; Campbell & Davis, 1996). Despite this consensus, the overall number of nursing students from diverse ethnic backgrounds continues to be small. This discrepancy is particularly apparent at the doctoral level where persons of color constitute only 9% of enrollees and EuroAmerican students comprise the vast majority of the student population at 81% (Washington, 1999). Given this discrepancy, the disproportionately small number of persons of color with nursing doctorates appears unlikely to change. For this article, the phrase "person of color" is inclusive of all groups set apart from dominant, EuroAmerican culture because of national origin, ethnicity, distinctive cultural patterns, and/or racial classification.

Despite the small number of doctorally prepared nurses of color, attention to recruitment and retention of diverse students at this level of education has been virtually nonexistent. The authors believe this gap in the literature poses a significant barrier to improving the quality of nursing doctoral education, to effective recruitment and retention of students of color, and ultimately to the shortage of faculty of color in nursing schools. In response to this knowledge gap, the authors conducted a preliminary study of the experiences of women of color in nursing doctoral programs. The decision to focus on women's experiences, rather than men's, was made to avoid confounding gender and ethnicity in the analysis.

The aims of this study were to:

* Describe the experiences of American women of color in nursing doctoral programs.

* Identify challenges faced by American women of color as they proceed through nursing doctoral programs.

* Describe the cultural contexts of institutions as understood by women of color in nursing doctoral programs.

The authors hope the findings of this preliminary study will serve as a springboard for discussion and future research in this area.


The Experience of Doctoral Study in Nursing

Although many studies have examined doctoral education in other fields (Nettles, 1990; Turner & Thompson, 1993), research literature focusing specifically on nursing doctoral education is scant. A review of the nursing research literature from 1995 through 2000 yielded only three published studies that addressed the unique experiences of nursing students working toward attainment of a PhD degree.

Gray et al. (1997), Heinrich, Rogers, Haley, and Taylor (1997), and Diekelmann and Magnussen- Ironside (1998) conducted qualitative studies seeking to explicate common practices and shared Ufe experiences of doctoral students. Although Diekelmann and Magnussen-Ironside (1998) did not disclose any details about the composition of their sample, Gray et al, (1997) and Heinrich et al. (1997) both reported that their participants were all women and predominantly Euro-American. A common finding of these studies was the significance of interpersonal connections with both peers and faculty to the experience of doctoral study. These connections helped shape the participants' intellectual development, while simultaneously providing emotional support during difficult times.

Diekelmann and Magnussen-Ironside (1998) found that "the importance of partnerships among students and teachers resonated in many of the narratives" (p. 9). Heinrich et al. (1997) reported that peer connection facilitated a sense of both individual and collective empowerment among participants. Similarly, participants in Gray et al.'s (1997) study described personal connections with peers as a source of strength that "supported them through the rigors of academic life" (p. 65). Although each of these studies highlighted the importance of student connections, the potential influence of ethnic difference on these connections was not examined. This omission is significant given that educational research consistently has reported that students of color feel alienated and isolated within predominantly Euro-American graduate schools and that mentorship opportunities for these students are lacking (Carrington & Sedlacek, 1976; Nettles, 1990; Turner & Thompson, 1993).

Diversity in Nursing Education

Several barriers to increasing diversity among nursing students are identified in the nursing literature. Rodgers (1990) cited long-term educational disadvantages and both overt and covert acts of racism as significant barriers to recruitment and retention of students of color in nursing. Racism can be defined as the systematic oppression of people of color at personal/interpersonal, institutional, and/or cultural levels (Goodenough, 2001). Suggested remedies to the barriers cited by Rodgers (1990) included aggressive advising at the high school level, early identification of academic deficiencies with appropriate intervention, increased recruitment of professionals of color, and a critique of Eurocentric curricula. The need to critique Eurocentric curricula also was identified by Sturch (1994), who noted that the imposition of one set of cultural values on students from diverse cultural backgrounds is both an ethical and practical concern for nurse educators.

In addition, the roles of faculty and institutions in the recruitment and retention of students of color has been examined. Campbell and Davis (1996) highlighted the importance of faculty commitment to the educational success of students of color as key to increasing graduation rates. Faculty of color were urged to "assume an activist role in minority student retention by making a conscientious effort to make themselves available to serve as role models and sources of support" (Campbell & Davis, 1996, p. 300). Similarly, Euro-American faculty were encouraged to model commitment and sensitivity for colleagues who have less experience in working with students of color and to "act to insure that beliefs and values for cultural diversity are evident in faculty composition" (Campbell & Davis, 1996, p. 300).

Consistent with other studies in the literature, Dowell (1996), in a review of recruitment and retention literature, noted that high attrition rates among students of color in higher education has been linked to a lack of social connection, financial aid, and faculty support and commitment. Dowell (1996) also cited institutional support as an influential factor affecting rates of recruitment and retention. Significant organizational variables identified were the number of people of color within the institution (i.e., faculty, administrators, students), administrative leadership style, and organizational culture. Unfortunately, DowelTs (1996) review relied primarily on non-nursing educational research due to a "glaring lack of nursing research on organizational characteristics and recruitment and retention programs for ethnic minorities in schools of nursing" (p. 296). In particular, qualitative nursing research investigating the contexts underlying problems with recruitment and retention of students of color are lacking.

According to Jordan (1996), qualitative inquiry is key to understanding the contexts and meanings underlying the phenomenon of attrition among students of color. Jordan's (1996) study of the lived experiences of African American undergraduate nursing students asked the question, "What is the meaning of being Black in a predominantly Euro-American nursing program?" Findings indicated that participants constantly were aware of their cultural identities in the context of the predominantly Euro-American nursing schools they attended; that they had an awareness of racism, which their Euro-American counterparts lacked; and that these factors created an environment in which participants felt out of place in their nursing programs. These findings underscore the importance of understanding the experiences of students of color if recruitment and retention efforts in predominantly Euro-American nursing schools are to succeed.

There is also a lack of literature addressing diversity at the doctoral level of nursing education. A review of the nursing education literature yielded only one article specifically addressing issues of diversity in nursing doctoral study. Meléis, Hall, and Stevens (1994) outlined the importance of creating a scholarly culture that incorporates diverse perspectives. This approach requires that scholars cultivate an historical awareness, engage in social critique, and be open to various ways of knowing, living, being, and thinking. Because no research specifically has examined the experiences of students of color in doctoral programs in nursing, the degree to which nursing has attained this kind of scholarly culture remains unknown.

In addition to advocating the creation of a scholarly culture that incorporates diverse perspectives, Meléis et al. (1994) highlighted the importance of mentoring for success in doctoral study. In particular, Meléis et al. (1994) noted that culturally sensitive approaches to mentoring may be inconsistent with the use of traditional, hierarchical mentoring approaches in which students are expected to mirror "their wise and older mentors" (p. 179). Such approaches are particularly problematic for women of color whose survival has depended on their ability to resist ethnic, gender, class, and other social hierarchies throughout their lifetimes.

In summary, the nursing education literature points to the importance of peer and faculty connection in doctoral study but has failed to examine the important influence of ethnic difference on these critical bonds. This omission is significant given the alienating and isolating effects of racism documented elsewhere and the disproportionately small number of doctorally prepared people of color in the nursing profession. Therefore, the importance of faculty and institutional commitment to recruitment and retention of students of color cannot be overemphasized. At the doctoral level, increasing the number of students from diverse ethnic backgrounds, while increasing the availability of faculty of color, will enrich the scholarly culture. It is the authors' hope that this study will provide valuable insights into the experiences of women of color in nursing doctoral programs because this understanding is essential to increasing diversity among nurse scholars.



American women of color are a diverse group whose life experiences are shaped by many complex social structures, including racist oppression. Gaining an understanding of the experiences of this group of women requires use of a method that provides access to the contexts and conditions of their lives and graduate careers. Accordingly, a critical henneneutic design was adopted for this study. Critical henneneutics combines the interpretive and critical traditions by examining the interplay of larger social forces i.e., the general) with individuals' everyday lives (i.e., the particular) (Kincheloe, & McLaren, 2000). This approach focuses on the conditions through which meaning is constructed in the context of existing power relations and structures, and is committed to understanding and exposing how power imbalances and ideologies limit and distort interpretation. There is an explicit assumption that tradition has meanings that uphold the status quo of existing power relations and that there is a need to demystify these socially oppressive meanings, which serve the interests of the few (Lutz, Jones, & Rendali, 1997).

Sample and Setting

Nine women of color enrolled in three nursing doctoral programs located in the western United States participated in unstructured interviews. The sample was primarily African American (n = 8), with 1 Asian participant. Financial constraints precluded the possibility of recruiting additional participants from other schools. Participants were recruited using convenience sampling of volunteers who self-identified as persons of color. To be eligible for participation, American citizenship and current enrollment in a nursing doctoral program for at least 1 year was required.


Two group interviews (n = 3 and n = 5) and one individual interview were conducted using an unstructured interview format. The number of women of color available for interviews at each institution dictated the use of individual, rather than group, interviewing approaches, as well as group size. Participants were asked to comment on the following areas:

* Socialization experiences.

* Faculty interactions.

* Description of experiences of racism during doctoral study.

* Perceived pressure to assimilate in the context of doctoral study.

* The most disturbing and most valuable aspects of doctoral study for women of color.

The interviews focused on these discussion topics using an informal, conversational approach. All interviews were co-conducted by the investigators, who are both women of color and were doctoral students during the data collection phase of the study. The interviews were conducted in both institutional and private settings and lasted approximately 2 hours. All interviews were audiotaped and transcribed for analysis.

Protection of Human Subjects

All participants signed a consent form approved by a university internal review board. Prior to the initiation of group interviews, the importance of confidentiality was discussed at length. All data obtained were handled in a careful manner to ensure complete confidentiality of all participants. Tb avoid identification of participants in narrative examples, all identifiers in the text were eliminated during analysis.


The goal of data analysis was to uncover themes of commonality and difference and place these themes within a larger social context. The lived experiences of women of color in nursing doctoral programs were extracted from the interviews using both thematic analysis and examples. First, each interview text was read in its entirety to obtain a global understanding of each narrative. Open coding of narratives using pencil and paper began shortly thereafter. These preliminary codes then were examined for areas of commonality and difference. An initial list of emerging themes was completed after data collection was completed. Subsequent to this early thematic analysis, the data were arranged into logical categories, and subthemes within each of these categories continually were developed and refined in an iterative process. After categories and subthemes were in place, the investigators began to search the text for examples that reflected each theme clearly and powerfully. Examples were selected based on logical fit and clarity. To enhance credibility, study findings were subjected to both peer review and external audit. Peer review occurred among a team of three qualitative researchers who discussed themes as they emerged early in the analysis. Finally, an external audit of study findings was performed by an expert in qualitative research, who reviewed both the raw data and the analysis as it neared completion.


The pervasive influence of racism on the participants' Uves at personal/interpersonal, institutional, and cultural levels was evident in their narratives. Analysis yielded the following major categories:

* An education in racism.

* Wearing masks.

* Maintaining the status quo.

* Moving on.

A description of each category follows.

An Education in Racism

Participants reported that racism was ubiquitous and that their everyday efforts to analyze and make sense of the racism they encountered was itself an education in racism. One participant reported that often faculty and peers put so much effort into showcasing their acceptance of her sexual orientation that they were completely oblivious of her ethnicity and, thus, made little or no effort to camouflage their racism. The participant said:

Well I received a real education about racism that I did not have earlier. Not that I had never experienced it, but the kinds of experiences I have had here have helped me to develop a more analytical sense about my position in the world. Like people would try to be really liberal about me being lesbian and that way they would not have to think about all the racist stuff they were saying about me.

This juxtaposition of liberalism and racism was confusing and complex. The complexity of racist encounters, while invisible to the majority of Euro-Americans, demanded ongoing attention and analysis from participants. One participant stated:

I think that White people don't have a clue about the fact that for every transaction that happens there is a racialized [sic] component in this nation. There is, and so you, as a person of color, have to sift through that stuff just to get through. There are so many layers of explication for any transaction, and if you are a person of color you have this whole other layer - and it is not a small layer. It takes a lot of time and energy, and I think that is something that does not get considered.

Examples of racism described by participants included Eurocentric curricula and ignoring and discouraging study and discussion of non-European cultures. For example, one participant said, ttWhen I mention racism and AfricanAmericans, boom it's over. The question about should you even be here [emerges]." The isolation and slander of faculty of color, as well as ethnic and racial slurs, also were reported. One participant stated, "When I go to the library.. .you can see heads turn, and I don't know if they are thinking, 'Does she belong here?" Another participant reported, "...if a White student got a better grade from this Black faculty member, then another White student would say to her, Oh well, you got that better grade because he wants to sleep with you. You know how they are."1

Other examples of racism included stereotyping (e.g., "During a diversity training, one of the faculty turned to me and asked me why Asian women are so promiscuous. Did I know why that was?") and lack of respect for cultural differences (e.g., "[Faculty parties]. ..kind of like [sic] disrespect my cultural values. I can't bring my family. They are usually really late at night. And there is drinking. I don't drink."). Unwillingness to challenge racism on the part of Euro-American faculty and peers also was noted. For example, one participant said, "She said the word gook in our seminar, and I kind of waited to see if anybody would say anything. Nobody said anything. It was just like it went by."

The work of analyzing, deciphering, and assigning meaning to the racism participants encountered required a tremendous amount of energy. Participants viewed this emotional and intellectual work as a burden EuroAmerican students did not have to bear. Unfortunately, this energy drain went unrecognized by the majority of Euro-American faculty and peers, leading to participants feeling alienated and angry.

In general, participants in this study reported that they received an education in racism as doctoral students that was both eye opening and alienating. Identifying and coping with both covert and overt racism was a major component of participants* lived experiences of doctoral study.

Wearing Masks

The presence and consequences of racism were concealed through the use of carefully constructed masks worn, by institutions, Euro-American faculty and students, and women of color themselves. Institutions wore masks by paying lip service to the importance of diversity in nursing, while upholding policies and establishing priorities that served to maintain the status quo of EuroAmerican dominance in academia. Despite policies promulgating the importance of diversity in education, participants noted that their schools had negative reputations among communities of color. One participant stated:

I have heard them aay we want to do this and we want to do that, but the numbers have not changed. And I think that the reputation precedes any attempt at this point to recruit, and until the reputation changes, nothing is going to change.

A participant at another institution reported the same problem:

I think this university attempts to [pay] Up service to what they are doing, but if you talk to the community outside the university, there is a totally different picture. When I first came here and went to a meeting of Black health care providers, the things they were saying about this school made me ashamed to say that I was from here.

Politically correct cultural diversity agendas without substance were manifested by disproportionately low numbers of students and faculty of color, high turnover of faculty of color, Eurocentric curricula, and enforcement of the status quo of racism at all levels. Although institutional masks were identified easily by participants, the masks of Euro-American liberal faculty and students were more difficult to discern.

Many Euro-American faculty and students wore the mask of liberal egalitarianism, while upholding racist oppression. Throughout the participants' narratives, the facade of the Euro-American liberal academic emerged. Euro-American faculty and peers who lacked self-awareness and denied their own racism fooled themselves continuously and fooled participants for a time. The following comments from one participant exemplify this phenomenon:

I think it is that liberal attitude - I am not sure if that is the right word for it - that masks this stuff. Everybody is Liberal and, you know, Unitarian, and they just go with that, and they do not know what is happening in their own homes and their own closets, in their own background, because they are supposed to have that liberal mentality They are not in touch with themselves and that makes them more racist because they are fooling themselves, and they are so clever that I have gotten trapped myself with some of them because they fooled me. And then after a while it comes out, and so I have to deal with not only the racism but being fooled, feeling like I have been tricked, so it is like a double whammy [sic]. I have gotten into that relationship where I have been tricked and now I have to work myself out of the relationship. And I have to think about how do I get out of the relationship with people who have more power than I have.

Participants' descriptions of Euro-American liberal racism was complex. Ib strengthen their facades as liberal egalitarians, faculty wearing masks often sought out students of color as a means of "legitimizing" themselves in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Masked individuals often befriended participants and then proceeded to subtly use and degrade them. When initially fooled by the masks of Euro-American faculty and students, participants later faced the arduous task of disentangling themselves from these relationships. In one narrative, a participant entered into a co-author relationship with a Euro-American colleague who initially appeared warm and friendly. However, over time, racist comments and behaviors surfaced. In other narratives, participants' committee members' objectionable worldviews (e.g., racist, sexist, homophobic) slowly emerged during the course of their faculty-student relationships. In all of these examples, participants faced the challenge of withdrawing from professional relationships, while coping with feelings of betrayal, anger, and disgust.

Women of color wore masks to hide their vulnerability. This phenomenon was demonstrated in the narrative of one participant who was surprised at being asked discriminatory and offensive questions by a faculty member on her committee during her comprehensive examination. Prior to her comprehensive examination, this participant had been unaware of her committee member's discriminatory views. She said:

I felt totally bamboozled. She [the faculty member] brought this bullsh- into my general exam. And the other members of my committee did not know what to do with it. This was the first time I have ever had so many people watch this kind of oppression happen right in their face. So they did not see me get mad, they did not see me smile, they did not hear any changes in my voice, in my tone, they did not see me cry. They just heard me respond to the questions. And Later I told them, Let's think about oppression, people. Could I cry? Didn't I have to keep my composure? This woman was going to kill me if she saw that I had flinched. And there were people of color watching this, but in my position I had to wear a mask. Like Längsten [Hughes] said, we are fooling our own. They [faculty on her committee who were sensitive to issues of racism, as well as people of color and other anti-racist individuals in the school environment] did not even know to come and rescue me.

By pretending not to be hurt, angry, sad, confused, or outraged in the face of racism, participants, out of necessity, wore masks. These masks allowed Euro-American faculty and students to feel comfortable in their positions of privilege, while disempowering students of color. Unfortunately, such masks were necessary because women of color who showed their true feelings risked being labeled as troublemakers and damaging their academic careers. This dynamic preserved the status quo of Euro-American dominance that was pervasive in the narratives.

Maintaining the Status Quo

Institutions enforced the status quo of Euro-American dominance through the hegemonic use of Eurocentric curricula and scholarly tradition. The lack of diversity in doctoral classes, coupled with Eurocentric curricula, was reported across programs. One participant stated:

All of the courses are very Eurocentric, and it is intense during the first year. In the second year, when you take some courses outside nursing, you start to see how behind nursing is in time. Just one course in any advanced [graduate] department, and you'll notice that what you have been taught is off the wall [sic].

In addition to Eurocentric curricula, lack of interest in cultural diversity among predominantly Euro-American faculty and peers also was problematic. One participant noted, "Cultural diversity and critical views are not there if you do not bring them up. If we aren't in the classroom, we know what happens. They [nursing faculty and peers] would just as soon not discuss anything having to do with any other group."

In addition to Eurocentric curricula and lack of interest in culture issues among faculty and peers, pressure to conform to the traditional mold of the European scholar was reported. Racist assumptions that women of color want to or should be like their Euro-American counterparts created difficulty for students of color, who, as one participant stated, "do not want to be like you." In this example, a participant described how her difference, rather than being celebrated, was discouraged:

I wanted to value or recognize my difference, so I had a certain style of how I wanted to present my information about African Americans. Like I did a poster presentation and decorated it with African cloth. Afterwards, they [peers] said why did you put so much energy into that? Why couldn't my stuff be like theirs. And I said, I am not like you. I am doing what is right for me, and somebody is trying to control me. They did not see it as control, they saw it as being like the group. But I did not want to be like them.

Another participant commented on how the pressure to conform often took the form of personal attacks:

Schoolwork is never the problem. It is the relating, and I am telling you I have not had problems relating before in my Ufe. These people make you think you have never been around anybody in your life. They make you think that you don't know how to act, that you weren't raised well or something.

By personalizing disapproval of difference, the pressure to conform to Euro-American scholarly culture undermined participants' views of themselves as decent, kind people. They questioned themselves, rather than the racist power system that devalued their ways of being in academia. This system served to maintain the status quo by discouraging dissent.

Although conformity to traditional European models of scholarly conduct were emphasized, taken-for-granted assumptions that women of color should be EuroAmerican women's caretakers also emerged. These stereotypical roles typically came to the forefront when Euro-American women became emotionally distraught, often related to issues of racism. In these situations, women of color were expected to placate and sympathize with distraught Euro-American women, suppressing their own feelings in the process. In reflecting on the processes of socialization that occur during doctoral study, one participant noted:

Some part of the socialization here is that they want you to respect them and be like them, except when they have a problem. Then they go onto those racial stereotypes that I am to be your caretaker now. If a White woman does something, I will say you did this, and this is how it made me feel. And they say, "I did not mean to do that." They cannot say they are sorry. They cannot say that because the position that they put me in is one where I am supposed to feel for their needs. I am not allowed to feel for my own needs - I am supposed to take care of White bodies.

Therefore, women of color were tacitly discouraged from expressing anger or moral outrage about racist acts, and Euro-American women were protected from having to cope with the painful realities of racism in their midst.

Not only did many Euro-American faculty and peers discourage any response to their own racist behavior, they also, more often than not, were unwilling to challenge the racist behavior of others. For example, one participant described situations in which Euro-American peers and/or faculty witnessed racism and chose not to respond to it, which added another layer of oppression to participants' lives:

Some of the White students would tell me these horrible things that they were witnessing White faculty and other students doing. And their way of dealing with it is to tell me or to tell another student of color and then they felt like divested of it. And then I would say, "Well, have you thought about responding to that?" And they are like, "No, no, I can't say anything." It is like they feel like they did something by talking to you, but in a way, it is another confirmation of how vile the environment is, and it is almost like a reinjury. It is like you feel better that it is not just you experiencing racism, but you also feel worse that they are not doing anything about it. They are not going to support you. They are not going to support anybody. They are just going to come and dump [sic] on you.

In this participants' experience, Euro-American women's pattern of reporting racist acts to colleagues of color, while refusing to take independent action, sent a powerful message - racism is your problem, not mine.

The status quo also was perpetuated by isolating students of color from one another. One participant stated:

This class has almost no students of color, and what I think they are doing is narrowing it, not getting too many students of color in at one time. They have to try and not let us talk to each other so that we all keep the racism in our individual heads and make us all think we have individual communication problems.

Participants' perceptions of discrimination in the admissions process is understandable when one considers the larger context of racism that exists in all institutions of higher learning and, ultimately, in society as a whole.

Despite the pervasiveness of racism, participants reported they were able to keep going, and as one participant said, stay true to themselves. Participants' determination to do their work, along with the support of a small number of faculty and peers, enabled them to move on. In the words of one participant, "We are still moving on. We are taking their stuff and much more and still moving on."

Moving On

The majority of participants' research was focused on some aspect of health of people of color. Participants described their research as important work ignored by the rest of nursing. Accordingly, many participants viewed their research as a moral undertaking. For example, one participant said:

If the racism here had not happened to me, I would not have taken it so seriously. The idea that some days I don't go to school not because I am sick but just because I don't want any racist insults. But I am researching, and I cannot let racism keep me home. Other people have done it. They have paved the way for me. I cannot let them down. I have a moral obligation because my research is not about making money, not just about the tenure track. It is much more powerful. It has a much more powerful impact, so that is good and it helps me through it.

Participants sought to meet the challenge of their perceived moral obligations and remain true to themselves, despite ongoing pressure to conform to the scholarly model of traditional, Euro-American academia. The support of a few selected faculty enabled the participants to move ahead. This finding also was noted across schools. One participant said:

I have had some amazing mentors, and I really owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. Both of them raised issues of racism in their classes. You need people who are not afraid at all and who have enough privilege and are aware of their own sense of power that they don't really give a s - what happens, you know. They have their place.

Another participant commented:

My relationship with my mentor has been pretty good. She has been there for me when I am feeling down. I think because she has experienced discrimination she is more sensitive to what my needs are. I think since we both have experienced discrimination this has brought us together.

Participants in this study consistently reported the importance of having access to people of color to support them in the process of moving on:

* We really do need a lot of faculty of color.

* Individually people become strong when they are in groups. You gain your strength from your group.

* Sometimes when you try to talk about things with White people they don't understand where you are coming from. You are talking to people that do not know your experience, and they may miss things, and you have to really break it down for them. But when you have another person that identifies with what you have been through, they understand. They understand.

Participants' stories underscored the importance of students of color having access to people like themselves, as well as the need for an infusion of critical voices among faculty in nursing schools. Unfortunately, this infusion has yet to occur, perhaps because, as one participant stated, "the faculty are recruiting themselves." Until faculty are willing to be challenged by difference and to be made uncomfortable by the pain and anger associated with racist and ethnic oppression, diversity among faculty in nursing schools is unlikely to increase.

As this study demonstrates, racism created many barriers and burdens for participants throughout their doctoral careers. Moving on meant progressing as doctoral students, as scholars, and as researchers, despite these obstacles. Moving on symbolized participants' personal triumphs over racism in academia.


The findings of this preliminary study support the essential role of faculty mentors in the recruitment and retention of students of color in nursing doctoral programs. Several participants were encouraged to pursue doctoral study by mentors, and all relied heavily on faculty mentorship during their education. Although increasing the number of faculty of color consistently was | described as crucial, more important was the identified need for faculty and students to develop and cultivate a critical awareness of the significance of racism at all levels. The unwillingness of the majority of Euro-American faculty and students to face racism within themselves, among their colleagues, and within their institutions maintained the status quo of Euro-American dominance and perpetuated the oppression of women of color, which was vividly described by the study participants.

The women of color in this study saw through the institutional and individual masks of Euro-American liberal academia. They were grappling with the effects of racism, while shouldering the work of doctoral study. Students like these need access to people with critical voices, so their struggles, contributions, and work can be affirmed. As nurse educators strive toward a vision for nursing education that challenges the hegemony of oppression, it is important to realize that "a matrix of domination contains few pure victims or oppressors" (Colline, 1990, p. 229). As such, all of us must look inward for a cure. According to * Cade-Bambara (1970), "revolution begins with the self, in the self" (p. 109). We can begin this revolution by taking off our masks and working toward empowerment and social transformation in collaboration with women of color in nursing doctoral programs. Change can begin when we dare to hear the truth.


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