Journal of Nursing Education

Major Article 

Exclusion and Control: Patterns Aimed at Limiting the Influence of Faculty of Color

Dena Hassouneh, PhD, PMHNP; Jen Akeroyd, MIR; Kristin F. Lutz, PhD, RN; Ann K. Beckett, PhD, RN


This article reports on findings from a grounded theory study of the experiences of faculty of color (FOC) in predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing. Findings indicate that a dominant group sometimes referred to as the “Good Old Girls” posed a major barrier to change. To maintain the status-quo, the Good Old Girls used their influence to subject FOC to Patterns of Exclusion and Control with the goal of controlling the influence of FOC. This occurred through parallel and interrelated exclusion and control subprocesses. Exclusion and control strategies threatened FOC’s success in academe while simultaneously jeopardizing their well-being. The exclusion strategies FOC experienced included Invalidation of Sense of Self, Othering, and Unequal Standards and Access to Resources. The control strategies included Insincerity and Putting You in Your Place. We describe each of these processes in detail and end with a discussion of the implications of our findings for educational practice.


This article reports on findings from a grounded theory study of the experiences of faculty of color (FOC) in predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing. Findings indicate that a dominant group sometimes referred to as the “Good Old Girls” posed a major barrier to change. To maintain the status-quo, the Good Old Girls used their influence to subject FOC to Patterns of Exclusion and Control with the goal of controlling the influence of FOC. This occurred through parallel and interrelated exclusion and control subprocesses. Exclusion and control strategies threatened FOC’s success in academe while simultaneously jeopardizing their well-being. The exclusion strategies FOC experienced included Invalidation of Sense of Self, Othering, and Unequal Standards and Access to Resources. The control strategies included Insincerity and Putting You in Your Place. We describe each of these processes in detail and end with a discussion of the implications of our findings for educational practice.

Dr. Hassouneh is Associate Professor, Ms. Akeroyd is doctoral student, Dr. Lutz is Assistant Professor, and Dr. Beckett is Assistant Professor, Oregon Health & Science University, School of Nursing, Portland, Oregon.

This study was supported by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and Sigma Theta Tau International. The authors thank the participants who shared their sometimes very painful experiences in nursing academe. They also thank Rhonda Vander Sluis for her contributions to this work and her thoughtful critique of the manuscript.

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Dena Hassouneh, PhD, PMHNP, Associate Professor, Oregon Health & Science University, School of Nursing, 3455 SW US Veterans Hospital Road, Portland, OR 97239; e-mail:

Received: November 28, 2011
Accepted: February 15, 2012
Posted Online: March 23, 2012

Nursing faculty of color (FOC) have been identified as a vital resource for increasing the number of nurses of color in the workforce, decreasing health disparities nationally, and improving the overall quality of academic environments (Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce, 2004). Despite the importance of FOC in schools of nursing, scholars of color are underrepresented (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2011). In addition, FOC continue to be underrepresented in administrative and leadership positions and at the rank of full professor (National League for Nursing, 2009b). To contribute to efforts to address this problem, our study explored the experiences of FOC in predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing. For the purposes of this article, the term Euro-American refers to individuals of solely European descent residing in the United States. The specific aims of the study were to explore the influence of racism on nursing FOC; identify strategies to support the recruitment and retention of nursing FOC; and develop a substantive grounded theory of the experiences of FOC in predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing. Thus, not only did we ask, “What are FOC experiences in predominantly Euro-American Schools of Nursing?” but also “What is going on?” A grounded theory approach seeks to answer such questions. The title of our theory, Surviving and Resisting Controlling Influences: Experiences of FOC in Predominantly Euro-American Schools of Nursing (Figure 1), reflects the three main processes we identified: Patterns of Exclusion and Control, Balancing Survival and Resistance, and FOC Having Influence. We focus on Patterns of Exclusion here (Figure 2). We intend to publish results pertaining to the latter two processes elsewhere (Hassouneh & Lutz, 2012; Lutz, Hassouneh, Akeroyd, & Beckett, 2012).

Overview of the grounded theory “Controlling influences: Experiences of FOC in predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing.” Note. FOC = faculty of color.

Figure 1. Overview of the grounded theory “Controlling influences: Experiences of FOC in predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing.” Note. FOC = faculty of color.

Overview of patterns of exclusion and control.

Figure 2. Overview of patterns of exclusion and control.

Literature Review

Racism is a system of power and privilege organized within a social context. It involves the assigning of value to ethnic differences that transform mere differences into deficiencies (Rothenberg, 1998). Studies exploring the experiences of FOC suggest that institutional and interpersonal, overt, covert, and aversive racism continue to be pervasive in U.S. higher education (Stanley, 2007). These forms of racism systematically disadvantage FOC through institutional and interpersonal conscious and unconscious biases (Solorzano, Ceja, & Yasso, 2000). Representing diverse academic disciplines including business, dentistry, education, engineering, medicine, and nursing, findings from these studies are both alarming and consistent. Faculty of color reported unequal standards for success, inequitable and inconsistent access to resources such as mentoring, and disproportionate committee service responsibilities (Burden, Harrison, & Hodge, 2005; Diggs, Garrison-Wade, Estrada, & Galindo, 2009; Stanley, 2006; Turner, Gonzalez, & Wong, 2011) In addition, social isolation, invisibility, marginalization and tokenism, and devaluing of professional interests were commonly described by FOC (Bower, 2002; Carr, Palepu, Szalacha, Caswell, & Inui, 2007; Davis & Davis, 1998; Pololi, Cooper, & Carr, 2010). Personal narratives by FOC corroborate and reinforce these thematic findings (e.g., Aguirre, 2005; Chavira-Prado, 2004; Gonzalez, 2007; Hassouneh, 2006; Lee, 2004; Marbley, 2007; Nieto, 2006; Reyes, 2005; Rayes & Rios, 2005; Sadao, 2003; Shrake, 2006; Stanley, 2007).

We were able to identify only one qualitative exploratory study of the experiences of FOC in predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing. Davis and Davis (1998) thematically analyzed data collected from 10 ethnic minority female nursing faculty members employed in schools of nursing in the southern region of the United States. Findings indicated that FOC engaged in processes of appraisal and coping in their work environments. Faculty of color first appraised the receptivity of majority faculty to minority faculty in the work climate. An unreceptive climate was one in which majority faculty attempted to make FOC invisible. If the climate was unreceptive, FOC would engage in various coping strategies described thematically as follows: proving [worth], fitting-in, defending [culture], and distancing. Although this model of appraisal and coping makes a valuable contribution to the literature, it fails to illuminate how majority faculty create an unreceptive climate. We maintain that identifying these underlying processes is necessary for creating meaningful change.

Despite the lack of research exploring nursing FOC experiences in predominantly Euro-American nursing schools, there is evidence that some schools of nursing acknowledge that exclusionary and controlling practices exist and are embedded in White privilege. Schroeder and DiAngelo (2010) described a project designed to challenge the climate of “Whiteness” at the University of Washington School of Nursing. The project engaged Euro-American nursing faculty and staff in workshops designed to help participants identify specific unacknowledged norms, behaviors, and practices of Whiteness that serve as structural advantage for the Euro-American majority. The focus on Whiteness was an explicit attempt to move away from the “dominant understanding of racism as isolated to acts of (bad) individuals, rather than as a system in which we are all enmeshed” (p. 244). Although this article addresses the problem of a “White” sociopolitical climate for FOC, none of the practices identified are described. However, the authors do provide some evidence that participants’ perspectives on racism and White privilege were challenged and even changed.

Although a considerable amount of work has been completed examining the experiences of FOC in U.S. higher education, little work has been done in nursing specifically. In addition, the literature is primarily descriptive, lacking an analysis of the processes underlying the experiences of FOC. As such, our study contributes new knowledge to the nursing literature and builds on the work of other scholars in the field.

Design and Method

Our study used a constructivist grounded theory design. This approach builds on the foundation of Glaser and Strauss (1967) while acknowledging the constructed nature of the research process and the resultant knowledge (Charmaz, 2006, 2011). In addition, we combined grounded theory’s tools for studying social processes with critical theory’s emphasis on the social and historical contexts of inequality, resulting in a robust and useful approach to understanding and theorizing social justice issues (Charmaz, 2005, 2011).


We used purposive maximum variation sampling to recruit faculty who self-identified as individuals of color employed as faculty at predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing. Recruitment occurred via personal contacts, affiliations with professional nursing organizations, and snowball sampling (Creswell, 1998). The sample included 23 FOC from all ranks, including six Instructors, nine Assistant, five Associate, and three full professors. Seven participants were administrators. Three men and 20 women, ranging in age from 33 to 65 years, participated. Fifteen participants were African American, four were Asian American, one was Native American, and three were Latina. Three participants were immigrants. Participants were from research-intensive and teaching institutions and community colleges from across nine states. As the analysis progressed, following initial data collection, we conducted theoretical sampling to further develop the properties, variation, and differences within and between categories.


Following approval by the university’s institutional review board, investigators initiated contact with potential participants, personally or via e-mail. All but two of the faculty contacted agreed to participate in the study. After an informed consent process, we conducted in-depth face-to-face interviews (n = 8) and telephone interviews (n = 15) lasting between 60 and 120 minutes; most interviews were approximately 90 minutes long. We asked participants to share their experiences as FOC in predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing. Six focus areas were included in the interviews: (a) the experiences of FOC over time; (b) relationships with others; (c) respect and value; (d) decision making and change; (e) job satisfaction; and (f) recruitment and retention of faculty and students of color. Subsequent contact and interviews were conducted for theoretical sampling and theoretical testing and development. Interviews were audiorecorded and transcribed verbatim. Participants were offered $40 remuneration.

Grounded Theory Analysis

Analysis began with each member of the research team completing an in-depth reading followed by open coding of each interview transcript. Using the constant comparison method, we began to ask questions of the data consistent with the methods described by Glaser (1978) and Charmaz (2006). Through the analytic process, we coded line by line, comparing data and categories within and across interviews. Each member of the research team engaged in this inductive and abductive process individually and then the research team convened to compare, discuss, and collaborate on our analyses.

We continued the analytic process by moving to focused coding, whereby we selected and used frequent and significant codes that were developed through our initial coding process to analyze and synthesize more data (Charmaz, 2006). As large amounts of data saturated on core processes, we began selective coding for these categories. As we approached saturation of these categories and related substantive codes, we next began the process of developing theoretical codes. Through theoretical sampling, we began expanding and completing the categories, as well as testing linkages between categories to elaborate and refine our theory. We selected and analyzed nine published first-person narratives of FOC’s experiences in predominantly Euro-American academic institutions as part of this process. We purposefully sampled FOC narratives that were not written by African American faculty to test and expand the model, as well as increase our sample diversity. Narratives were drawn from FOC in education, English, anthropology, social sciences, and dentistry (Calhoun, 2003; Chavira-Prado, 2004; Cockrell, 2006; Haj-Ali, 2004; Lee, 2004; Nieto, 2006; Nunpa, 2003; Sellers, 2003; Shrake, 2006). Narratives were selected based on the following criteria: rich first-person narratives, ethnic variability, and published within the past 10 years. We also returned to selected participants to continue theoretical sampling, test our model, and engage in a process of member checking. During member checking, researchers solicit participants’ views of the credibility of the findings and interpretations (Creswell, 2007). Throughout this process we continued to memo, which helped to solidify our developing theory and construct new understanding of FOC experiences.

Evaluation Criteria

Evaluation of this investigation focused on the criteria of credibility, originality, resonance, and usefulness, as proposed by Charmaz (2005, 2006) for grounded theory studies in social justice inquiry, as well as from the comprehensive synthesis of validity criteria in qualitative research of Whittenmore, Chase, and Mandle (2001).

We used peer review and debriefing, member checks, analyst reflexivity, and rich thick description to enhance the credibility of interpretation. For example, two FOC, one of whom was a study participant, were invited to review the emergent theory and analyses and provide critique, member checking, and peer review, which were incorporated into the theoretical model. To maintain a critically reflective perspective throughout the research process, we also engaged in rigorous discussions and communication via ongoing memoing. This process helped the team to remain sensitive to the ways our assumptions and experiences and those of our participants influenced our data, as well as our interpretations of the data and the participants’ meanings.

To evaluate credibility of the theory, we examined the adequacy of the data, variation within theoretical categories, and linkages between the data, the analysis, and the presentation. Participants shared numerous rich narratives reflecting subtle and overt experiences of exclusion and control, which enhanced category variation. The originality of the theory is reflected in novel categories that offer insight into the patterns of exclusion and control used to control FOC’s influence. We believe that the evidence presented here supports our assertion that this theory is not only socially and theoretically significant, but also that it challenges current knowledge and practices within nursing academe. The resonance of the theory has been reflected in expansive categories that depict the phenomena while revealing taken-for-granted meanings. Wherever possible and when supported by data, we have drawn linkages between collective and individual lives of FOC. Our analysis presents a construction of Patterns of Exclusion and Control experienced by FOC that may be useful to nursing academe by increasing awareness and providing a springboard for future work.

There is no doubt that our interpretations are mediated by our own life experiences and values as individuals and as nursing faculty members and graduate students. All members of the research team are women; two of us identify as FOC. We all are committed to social justice, diversity, and inclusivity in academe. Through a constructivist research process, we endeavored not to have our values, experiences, and perceptions dominate those of our participants (Gibson, 2007). At the same time, we acknowledge the tensions between the co-creation of knowledge and meaning, our commitment to social justice, and our goal of uncovering taken-for-granted meanings and actions (Charmaz, 2011).


Surviving and Resisting Controlling Influences: Experiences of Faculty of Color in Predominantly Euro-American Schools of Nursing

The experiences of FOC occur against a historical backdrop of exclusion within both higher education and the profession of nursing. With the advent of the civil rights movement, changing societal values, and mandates to increase diversity in schools of nursing by the funders of higher education, numerous professional organizations, and expert panels, total exclusion of FOC from predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing has come to an end. Still, the racism that fueled historical exclusion lives on today and is manifested by overt, covert, and aversive forms of racism. Racism surrounds and infuses universities and colleges and the schools of nursing within them, shaping the daily lived experiences of FOC and marking them as “Other.”

Responding to Patterns of Exclusion and Control, often spearheaded by a group many FOC referred to as the “Good Old Girls,” FOC struggled to progress in their careers and influence their environments by Balancing Survival and Resistance, the core psychosocial process of our theory (Figure 1). The Good Old Girls exert Patterns of Exclusions and Control to defend the status quo because it actively serves their interests (Figure 2). As senior faculty and leaders in schools of nursing, the Good Old Girls influence other faculty and students by socializing them to be the Good Old Girls of the future, resulting in the creation of an ongoing pervasive network of practices that exclude and control FOC in multiple and complex ways.

Participants reported experiencing varying degrees of intensity of exclusion and control. Differences in the level of intensity and the number of strategies of exclusion and control experienced by a FOC was mediated by a complex interaction between Threat Perception, as perceived by the Good Old Girls, and Intervening Protective Factors. Threat Perception was determined by the intersectional nature of faculty’s multiplicative identities and personal ways of being and interacting with the world. In particular, we observed that Threat Perception was influenced by: (a) physical appearance different from Euro-Americans, especially darker skin color; (b) being different in some other way (e.g., male gender, cultural, or religious garb); (c) belonging to a group associated with threatening stereotypes; and (d) an overt commitment to increasing diversity and challenging the status quo. Protective factors such as progressive leadership, inclusive school culture, strong mentoring, and senior faculty rank buffered the intensity and pervasiveness of Patterns of Exclusion and Control exerted by the Good Old Girls. Thus, FOC who were perceived as being low threat experienced low intensity and those who were perceived as high threat, and without Intervening Protective Factors, experienced high intensity Patterns of Exclusion and Control.

Balancing Survival and Resistance occurred via three parallel subprocesses, including a Trajectory of Faculty Awareness of the existence and effects of Patterns of Exclusion and Control, ranging from naïve to sophisticated; a process of Engagement and Disengagement with students and other faculty characterized by responses ranging from reactive to strategic; and a process of Managing Outcomes, characterized by responses ranging from limiting harm to shaping success. The final outcome of the process of Balancing Survival and Resistance was FOC Having Influence on students, faculty, school, and community.

Patterns of Exclusion and Control

Patterns of Exclusion and Control had the effect of limiting and restricting FOC’s influence on their schools and ultimately on school culture. This occurred through parallel and interrelated subprocesses, including three exclusion and two control strategies. Exclusion and control strategies threatened FOC’s success in academe while simultaneously threatening their health and well-being. The exclusion strategies FOC experienced included Invalidation of Sense of Self, Othering, and Unequal Standards and Access to Resources. The control strategies included Insincerity and Putting You in Your Place. Insincerity included two subprocesses: Silencing and Using.


Invalidation of Sense of Self. Invalidation of Sense of Self describes a series of interconnected and ongoing assaults to the sense of self FOC experienced in the context of an alienating academic environment. These assaults occurred via an overall process of invalidation involving a failure to recognize and acknowledge FOC’s unique individuality, cultural values, and professional knowledge. Invalidation of Sense of Self included the following subthemes: invalidation of personhood; cultural invalidation; and invalidation of knowledge.

Invalidation of Personhood. This subtheme describes FOC’s experience of being treated not as unique individuals but rather as members of a specific ethnic group. In her narrative “Unmasking the Self,” Shrake (2006) described her experience with this phenomenon, stating, “How I perceived myself didn’t matter to others. To them, I was just a woman of color” (p. 181). This experience of not being seen was echoed by study participants:

When you read the book “Invisible Man” the beginning opening says “I’m invisible simply because you refuse to see me.”… Not because I’m not there, you refuse. That is really what I think a lot of minority faculty go through.

The experience of not being seen but rather categorized was also expressed by this participant:

We have lived with educated people who are racists…people look at us and the first thing they see, they see this black male. They see this black female…. When someone looks at me they don’t look at me as Dr. X, director of the nursing program. They look at me as a black person.

Because there are few ethnic minorities in predominantly Euro-American schools of nursing and because of the racialization constantly at play in the dominant culture, darker skin color or other visible differences tend to make FOC noticeable to others. Paradoxically, this same process of racialization tended to mark darker skinned or otherwise differently appearing faculty members as objects, rendering their humanity and individuality invisible.

Cultural Invalidation. Nondominant cultural values central to FOC’s sense of self were also invalidated. In her narrative “It’s just a social obligation. You could say ‘No’! Cultural and Religious Barriers of American Indian Faculty in the Academy,” Calhoun (2003) posed the question, “Must I silence my voice and deny my cultural and religious traditions to gain job security?” (p. 134). Responses from our participants indicate that this question also has meaning for FOC in nursing. Cultural Invalidation tended to particularly occur when the “rules of the game” in academia were incongruous with a participant’s cultural values, such as independence versus interdependence and touting one’s achievements versus humility. In the following exemplar, a participant describes her experience of cultural invalidation related to family values following the announcement that she will be pursuing doctoral study:

My colleagues…were making a point to say “well say goodbye to your family” and…that became the emphasis and I’m like “why should I? That is not part of my cultural upbringing.” So I started feeling like why am I feeling this offendedness? So I reflect on that...I started to get more—feeling uptightness whenever that would just be blatantly—and I’m sure that they did not have any ill intention but I felt disrespected because I was like “that is not part of my cultural value”…. So I was like “my family doesn’t think I am going to say good bye. They see me as blending both values of pursuing opportunity for women and the Asian background.”… So I have all of these different thoughts going on in my mind of trying to question and I did not want to feel like that…. It is like as though every time I see them that became the emphasis…. I kept having to revisit that feeling, that disrespected feeling and it takes a toll.

Feeling disrespected and violated as a result of cultural invalidation was also expressed by this participant:

They were confrontational. Some of the faculty were with me…they violated my sense of self. I don’t know how else to say it. I don’t mean punitively or anything like that but in Native culture we don’t tell people what to do. And they would tell me what to do about anything. My research, my service, my—it is hard to capture it exactly. A Native person does not tell another person how to do it.… You respect the other person and their decision-making and autonomy. That is what tribal sovereignty is all about. And it is kind of like I don’t respect your tribal sovereignty, and I want you to respect mine. And they didn’t…. It was uncomfortable for me…. In Indian culture you are valued for who you are not what you do.

As the preceding exemplars demonstrate, despite ongoing calls by schools of nursing for diversity and inclusion, FOC are often expected to conform to dominant academic norms, often resulting in an invalidation of core cultural values that are integral to a faculty member’s sense of self.

Invalidation of Knowledge. Faculty members are generally viewed as knowledge workers. We hold, produce, and convey knowledge. Therefore, being a person with knowledge is a central aspect of our identity. As such, challenges to our status as knowers can be viewed as challenges to our sense of self. In her narrative “Negotiating My Space in Academe,” Lee (2004) described an experience with a Euro-American male student who asked to see her diploma. Several participants in this study also described incidents where their status as knowers was challenged. The following participant tells a story of struggling to be recognized as a clinical faculty member:

There is stuff like “Who are you? You are the teacher?” kind of questions. I have to have my white coat on…and it’s like I have to buck myself up with a lot of other things saying like who I am, what I do here…. There is nobody that you can talk with… who would respect you. You know the respect that you deserve. It is almost like you are fighting for who you are…. And that is hard for me…and I see that every day.

Another participant talked about being challenged as a knower by her faculty peers:

I was always challenged with what I knew. In other words, they were always in some obscure way challenging me…trying to see if I really knew what I knew or if my knowledge base was up to par with…where they thought it should be and making me feel less than, which in turn made me work harder to show that yes I am capable. Yes I can coordinate this course. Yes I am capable of being in charge of a course. I can manage the group of students. Validate that I can do it.

Participants also reported being challenged by students:

It remains a challenge for me in my current position trying to get students to connect with me. To accept that you do have knowledge, that you do know what you are talking about…. So I think they have a tendency to look [at] you in terms of here is this person of color, this black person trying to teach me something and they don’t value or they don’t validate or they don’t appreciate you for what you have to give them and share with them.

As the above exemplars demonstrate, Invalidation of Sense of Self reflects processes that serve to invalidate critical aspects of the self. Each of these processes takes a toll, requiring that FOC use tremendous amounts of energy to maintain their personal values and identities in the academic environment.

Othering. At the same time that FOC face personal, cultural, and professional invalidation, they also experience the process of Othering. Othering refers to a process where practices of admittance and segregation form and sustain boundaries that maintain and police a group’s character. Through Othering, there is a tendency to view one’s own ethnic group as superior to all others and to evaluate and assign meaning to other ethnicities using the dominant group as a standard. Thus, Others are viewed as different and consequently as outside of the dominant group. The category of Othering included two subthemes: Uncomfortable Difference, and Academic and Social Outsider.

Uncomfortable Difference. Uncomfortable difference refers to majority faculty members’ discomfort and hyperawareness of ethnic differences in FOC. In the context of liberal values and the push toward cultural competence, this discomfort may be manifested as an attempt to appear culturally competent or sensitive as a means of denying or covering up xenophobia. An example of this kind of “inauthentic cultural competence” is described in this exemplar:

There were these subtle kinds of comparisons that were being made between myself and them. And it was—and I’m just thinking of a particular person…and it was almost like she was trying to make me see how she, herself, is very connected to culture. And she came from an institution and a state where sometimes her classroom or clinical cohort students would be all of Asian descent, and I wasn’t quite sure what she was trying to do…. And I’m, like, “this is the most awkward feeling I’ve ever had,” but it made me more conscious…so I started thinking about “is there something about how I’m coming off that, maybe, is making her feel that she needs to take that extra step?” So I started evaluating even more closely regarding about how I communicated with my colleagues…how I am with students. And I was becoming more aware of my Asianness because of this one thing…. So here’s this part of my whole second year of my teaching where this is the first time that I was feeling that, oh, my God, I really am a minority faculty…and every time we would interact with each other it would just become more and more apparent how Asian I was and how Caucasian she was…. It was one of those where…I would start to find myself trying to avoid this particular person, and I started seeing that if there was someone else, even if it was a coworker in the hospital setting that acted in a similar way like this particular person it would become a trigger where I would find myself avoiding them. And I was trying to make sure…the situation didn’t impact how…I teach and how I interact with other new incoming adjuncts as well…. Having to be conscious of that all the time is exhausting.

As the preceding exemplar highlights, majority faculty’s discomfort with FOC differences are picked up by FOC even when they manifest that discomfort in what on the surface might appear to be culturally sensitive behavior. Thus Uncomfortable Difference serves to further the alienation of FOC in nursing academe.

Academic and Social Outsider. In her narrative “Solitary Sojourn: An American Indian Faculty Member’s Journey in Academe,” Cockrell (2006) spoke of her feelings of loneliness: “As a female American Indian, the solitude I experience is pervasive, and penetrates through most elements of my professional life” (p. 124). This solitude is part of a process of Othering that marks FOC as outsiders. Many participants reported experiencing Othering as a feeling of being unwelcome. One participant characterized this as a “You don’t belong here kind of attitude.” Another advised “Don’t expect the red carpet to be rolled out for you…and don’t expect them to say we want you here. They don’t want you here.” This messaging occurred early on in the careers of FOC, as one participant expressed:

I had my first faculty position there. It was clear to me from day one that I was clearly the outsider from everyone else. I had an office. I had all of those things that a faculty has. But with respect to the acknowledgement of who I was as an individual faculty member I felt there was a clear, you know, sometimes subtle, covert message being sent that my role was to be quiet and stay in a corner and not say too much.

FOC’s outsider status was also experienced in the form of social isolation, contributing to a deep sense of loneliness on the part of some participants. One participant noted:

I have been here for five years and there is nobody that I can truly call a friend that just comes to the office and talks to me. And just sits down and asks me “how are you doing?” as a person. It is a very lonely position.

As the above exemplars illustrate, Othering, whether subtle or obvious, is an exclusionary process that isolates and alienates FOC both as academics and social beings.

Unequal Standards and Access to Resources. A third form of exclusion was setting higher standards for achievement for FOC relative to their majority peers and limiting their access to the resources and information needed for success. Speaking to the problem of unequal standards, one participant noted: “I don’t think they made it easy for us. We had to work doubly hard to maintain if we could.” An example of a differential standard provided by one participant was a requirement that he provide copies of his teaching evaluations as part of a hiring process for a new faculty position:

I learned during that time after my interview process that they did something that they had never done before with a candidate, and in that case I was the first African-American candidate they had ever had there…. Before I came there I got this phone call from someone there and they had asked me to submit five years of my teaching evaluations. I said, “Really?”… For some reason someone on the committee couldn’t believe that my evaluations were that high and they shouldn’t have been that high. They were questioning it and so they wanted me to submit all of this to them. So I just happened to keep my records from day one so I faxed them all to them. I never heard another word about it. But one of my colleagues who sat on the committee said he was highly disturbed. He had never seen them do that. He had been at that institution for a long time and he said that this was the first time that they had ever required anybody to submit their evaluations…. This was the first time they had ever done that because normally they just get references and that would be it.

Unequal access to resources included disparate pay, inequitable workload, differences in research investment time, and even lack of office space. The participant in the following exemplar describes the unequal distribution of research investment time as a critical factor in shaping success of research programs:

Participant: Everyone else coming into the school was given drift money. They were given three years to get their research up and going…. When I changed my area of focus I said I need at least a year or two to get my practice up and going and I need to see how I am going to integrate my research into my practice.... Now mind you they were letting other people come and get their research. They are supporting them, reducing teaching loads, giving them research money and saying “we are going to give you three or four years to figure out how you are going to get your research up and going.” Whereas with me, they are expecting me to go and immediately [get] out there and start doing research in an area that I really had no experience in.

Interviewer: So the standards seemed to be different.

Participant: They seemed to be different.

Limiting access to information was also reported:

Participant One: At this university they don’t want you to be the next generation. They don’t want you to sit there [in academia]. They don’t want you to compete with them so they are not going to put the information out there for you.

Participant Two: And it is almost like they keep information from you…they are looking to do it in a subversive way. Keeping information, again, ignoring you…saying “I don’t have to do this for you. You should get it on your own” kind of thing.

Lack of access to information had implications for FOC’s ability to seek promotion and tenure, as stated by this participant:

Because I learned one day that all three of us [FOC] had the same feeling that we couldn’t trust anybody, that we couldn’t have these kinds of conversations with folks about, how do you get ahead? How do you get tenure here? They would have been going up before I would have been going up. But we were all completely ignorant about that process. So I began to believe that there was some systematic process in place, institutionalized in a way, to keep us quiet so that we would never make it there.

The preceding exemplars demonstrate that FOC are expected to achieve more with less. This suggests that it may be more difficult for FOC to be successful in predominantly Euro-American nursing schools, potentially leading to turnover and burnout and decreasing their influence on school environments.


The two control strategies reported by participants included Insincerity and Putting You in Your Place. Insincerity is commonly defined as a form of deception, or as (n.d.) states, “not honest in the expression of actual feeling; hypocritical.” Insincerity included two subprocesses: Silencing and Using. We found that at the same time the processes of Silencing and Using of FOC were pervasive, diversity was reportedly touted as a major priority in many schools of nursing, often showing up in strategic plans. As one participant noted:

I think that nursing schools will say they’re on board with diversity but they’re really not…. People can talk about diversity and people can talk about the need for diversity but I think you have to live it. I mean as they say “talk is cheap.” You have to live it.

Insincerity: Silencing. The experience of being silenced was pervasive. This commonly occurred during meetings. Speaking out was made difficult for FOC. Silencing of FOC sometimes occurred regardless of the subject matter and at other times occurred only when the topic of diversity was raised. As one participant said, “when you begin raising those questions people… want you silenced….”

The following exemplar highlights how behaviors at meetings were used to systematically silence FOC on topics generally:

Participant: They did, they had two African American females...but we all three [FOC] felt like we were singled out. We all three didn’t feel safe to speak in this environment, that we couldn’t trust the environment, that we had to constantly be looking behind our backs. We were not allowed to speak during meetings, if we did it seemed like it was creating a huge chaos. And one of the things that I remember with clarity was each time—and it didn’t matter if it was me or one of them was saying something—we could have said it in the most kindest, helpful way, it was as if the roof fell off the building. And I began to believe at one point that that was an attempt to keep us quiet that if we said something and there was all this chaos ensuing because we said something then maybe we would be quiet. And that had [come] to me because I had experienced that at my other position in [another state], that this was a systemic attempt to keep us in our places so we would not learn about the power structure, we would not learn about the system, we would not learn about how to get ahead and move up, we wouldn’t ask questions, we wouldn’t go to people and talk with them and that way we would never be in the know.

This next exemplar illustrates silencing, particularly as it relates to the topic of diversity:

I remember sitting in a [meeting] room debating whether or not I was even going to bring it up because I was playing out what was going to happen in my head. And it was almost like a joke. And almost like a game for me.… My image was throwing a bone, dogs devouring it, which is what happened. So I threw it. I said, “What about diversity?” And immediately, “Well, why are you bringing that up? What are you talking about? Are people complaining? What examples do you have? Can we operationalize diversity?”… I just sat back and said nothing more than that. And…everyone was going on about this issue. And eventually it got quiet and they were like—I guess I wasn’t talking anymore—and someone said “Well [X] could you elaborate?” And I said “No forget it, I withdraw. I withdraw the point.”

The preceding exemplar demonstrates the disturbing reality that it is the FOC who are most interested in progressive change and who are also the most likely to be targeted and silenced by those seeking to maintain the status quo. As a result, some faculty may choose to be silent. As one participant stated, “It feels so peaceful to be silent.”

Insincerity: Using. In addition to silencing, FOC also experienced Using as an insincere way that majority faculty would engage with them in the academic environment. Calhoun (2003) described her experience with Using when her university used her name and photo as a means of advertising a Native American Literature program: “The university…broadly made use of my name and face…when developing outreach programs and pamphlets. I was an American Indian assigned by the university, without even the recognition of a courtesy appointment” (p. 133). A similar experience was reported by a participant in this study whose photo was used without her permission to advertise an academic program with which she had no affiliation:

When the first dean was here when I came we went to the same conference…. And the school had two tables of people. And I was invited to be at one of the tables. And I knew then…I knew that I was a token. I knew I was to be there for show. And a picture was taken…. They used it for it [an academic program pamphlet]…. So you play that part.

Another participant noted that FOC were sometimes used for their connection to minority communities:

Participant: You find that people will include you in things but it’s to their benefit. For example, when people want to go work in the African American Community they call on me. You don’t see them including you in any of the other activities that they do. Which really brings up the question if there wasn’t as much money available for African American research, would there be so much work being done in the African American Community? Are you there because you want to be there or are you there because that’s where the dollars are?

Interviewer: And I think the answer is very clear on that one. That they go where the money is….

Participant: My chair gets on my case all of the time, “Well you are not actively involved.” I said “Because we don’t feel welcomed. Why would I want to be involved in something where I don’t feel welcomed?” Yeah, so it is a struggle…and there comes a point where you have to say “this fight is much bigger than I am willing to do.”

To summarize, Silencing and Using are two sides of the same coin. One strategy hides and contains, whereas the other displays and uses; however, both strategies reflect a context of Insincerity that is used to control and exploit the influence of FOC, thus undermining progressive change.

Putting You in Your Place. Although some faculty reported being put in their place by nonfaculty members on campus, the majority shared experiences that had occurred within their own nursing schools. Often, Putting You in Your Place occurred when FOC attempted to hold students accountable for their work. The following exemplar describes this phenomenon:

I would have to say there was this feeling of being constantly micromanaged, being constantly under a microscope all the time so that each word I spoke, each sentence, I wrote with respect to students, you know, grading a student everything was scrutinized. So there was this sense of not having any freedom to be a full-fledged faculty member in that setting because at the time I was the only minority—the first they had in a tenure track position…. It was very difficult. I even had the situation where the students I had walked off and left patients and abandoned them and these were patients who were critically ill. These students who walked off, all of them were white. These students left except myself and a student of color who stayed back. These students went shopping for about three hours and left us with all these patients and abandoned their patients. We had policies clearly in our school that if students did that that was grounds for automatic dismissal and failure. Well, I tried to execute those policies and I repeatedly was slapped on the hand for disciplining the students. I was slapped on the hand for trying to fail them; I was not even allowed to fail them even though they did what they did. In fact, I was told to apologize to them for being so harsh because they had walked off, and I did apologize to them. I came to the agreement where they can only get a C and that was it, but these students should have failed. I have seen them fail students of color who had done far less egregious acts than that. And so there was a lot of racism going on.

Another participant described feeling attacked by her peers for correcting a student in the clinical setting:

Participant: They talked like I was the student or the small one in the room in a meeting where I felt like “what are you trying to do?” I felt attacked. The student felt like I was the instructor instead of the lead faculty. And I’m thinking all I did was give some feedback to the student. It was she [another faculty member] who did not call her [on it] so I had to call her [on it] so that she would learn from the mistake. It was not about you [the other faculty] it was about the student. And it really became about me and [the other faculty member]…. I was attacked and I knew the reason it was done. It was kind of questioning my intelligence. I am sure other people could not tolerate that….

Interviewer: So you feel like there was racism part of that interaction?

Participant: It was [racism].

Faculty of color were also put in their place when they tried to provide input into course assignments and evaluations, as this participant noted:

From my perspective to give…my view about what was happening…in terms of how students are… evaluated, the kind of assignments that they get—when I started questioning it— questioning it meaning asking questions. I don’t think that I… was really challenging it. I mean that I was just asking…questions. So I experienced those. You know, you haven’t been here a nanosecond. You…don’t know what it’s like here. You don’t… know what we’ve gone through. You…know, this is definitely like a sort of putting me in my place.

Of all of the narratives we collected about Putting You in Your Place, the most overt and graphic incident was reported by an African American male faculty member. He reported being detained and abused by a security guard at his school of nursing. Although nursing faculty were not directly involved with this incident, the failure of the school to address this harassment, in essence tolerating it, speaks to the complicity of the school in this event:

There was one Friday that I came into my office and I wasn’t dressed, I had shorts on because it was an extremely hot, humid day…. I went up to my office and was there for maybe a good 20 minutes…. When I was about to leave the school, the building, there were several police cars out in front, but they were campus police. And I thought nothing of it; I was just walking to the parking lot. As I was walking to the parking lot this police officer yelled out to me, “Hey, you,” and I didn’t know he was talking to me. And he cursed, and he said, “You hear me talking to you?”… At that point…they questioned me, asking me what I was doing in the building. And I told them that I work in the building that my office is in there. And they didn’t believe me because at that time I didn’t have my faculty I.D., but just my driver’s license. I didn’t intend to stay long; I was just in the neighborhood. I gave them my name because I knew they could check for me in the system, if they called the security office my name was there with my picture. So I gave them my name and the officer, from my understanding, called the head office and said, “They came back and said they never heard of you.” I said, “Excuse me, well, I have a key, I can show you my office.” So during this time of walking into my office this officer went up the stairs, was shouting at the top of his voice at me, calling me all kinds of names and just cursing, telling me he wasn’t going to take any BS from me and all of this stuff. And I was scared at that point because I didn’t know what was going on. And he was very intimidating. He kept getting in my face; he kept acting like he was going to grab me…. I opened my office and showed him my degrees on the wall, showed him my pictures there so he could see it was me. Well, when he saw all this he started calling me stupid and said that that wasn’t me. He said, “This can’t be you.” He said, “You are stupid, you know” and “you are ignorant just like the rest of them.” And he was just going on and on and on. Here I am in my office at work and this is happening. I looked at him and asked him to leave my office. I said, “You know who I am now; I would like you to leave my office at this point.” He wouldn’t leave. He said “I will leave when I want to leave.” I said, “Then I would like to leave.” “You will leave when I tell you to leave,” he said. At that time he was doing all this he was about two inches away from my face. So when he was yelling he was literally spitting in my face as he is talking to me, pointing his finger in my face. I just stood there.... He stayed in my office for about half an hour terrorizing me about how he was going to arrest me. I was going to lose my job, I was going to go to prison, go to jail, all these things. He kept going on and on. He was trying to provoke me because he kept yelling [and getting] in my face. I stood there quietly and let him talk. He called me all kinds of names. He told me I was stupid and ignorant and that I don’t have the education and that the president should never have hired me and the president should be embarrassed. And he told me that he was going to go to president about me and I was going to lose my job. I just sat there and listened to him and he left finally. And I was so shook up I [could] barely walk out of my office. I left and went home. And then Monday I came in and went to the dean and told her what had happened, she completely blew it off. She said it was a misunderstanding. I’m not going to do anything. She wouldn’t intervene. She wouldn’t do anything at all.

As the preceding exemplars illustrate, Putting You in Your Place is a process that is demeaning and intended to control the influence of FOC through disrespect and, in more extreme cases, intimidation. Putting You In Your Place is a logical cooccurrence with the Invalidation of Sense of Self, Othering, and Silencing processes described in this article.

Discussion and Implications

Both the National League for Nursing (2009a) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (1997) have identified increasing and valuing diversity as key goals for nursing education, yet our findings suggest that Patterns of Exclusion and Control operating in school cultures create powerful barriers to the development of inclusive academic environments. We suggest that nurse educators use our findings, including the Table, as a means of identifying and addressing Patterns of Exclusion and Control in their own schools. We further suggest that Euro-American faculty and students consider applying this knowledge by rejecting the privilege and benefits that Patterns of Exclusion and Control afford them to the extent possible. This means moving beyond feelings of empathy for FOC toward a stance of responsibility for Patterns of Exclusion and Control. Euro-American faculty and students can do this by first being aware of exclusion and control strategies in their environments and second by disrupting these patterns. Examples of this approach using the findings presented include questioning whether one would have received extra research investment funds, a lightened teaching load, or a substantial pay raise if one were an FOC, rather than of the majority, or if one were acting in solidarity with FOC during meetings when silencing is observed. This stance of responsibility requires a radical commitment to social justice on the part of Euro-American faculty and students (Delgado, 1996). Combining awareness of the exclusion and control strategies described in this article while simultaneously working to disrupt these patters offers a powerful strategy for change.

Patterns of Exclusion and Control School Assessment: To What Extent Do Faculty of Color (FOC) Influence the School Culture?

Table: Patterns of Exclusion and Control School Assessment: To What Extent Do Faculty of Color (FOC) Influence the School Culture?


Patterns of Exclusion and Control are processes that detrimentally affect the well-being, careers, and success of FOC. Because the racism underlying these processes tends to be subtle and may manifest through taken-for-granted ways of being in nursing academe, their existence may often be downplayed, ignored, or denied by the majority (Solorzano, Ceja, & Yasso, 2000). In light of the often subtle nature of racism in nursing academe, making these processes explicit is critical to our ability to assume the stance of responsibility referred to above. Future research is needed to ensure that this challenging work occurs. Suggestions for future research include use of critical ethnography to study schools of nursing cultures, thereby further exposing and delineating Patterns of Exclusion and Control. In addition, although our study focused primarily on ethnicity, both our findings and the literature suggest that other socially constructed categories, such as gender, class, and disability, play a role in shaping faculty experiences of exclusion and control. Qualitative research is needed to more fully explore the effect of these intersecting identities on FOC experiences. This future research is essential to our ability to make real gains in diversity in nursing academe, moving beyond the holding pattern of exclusion and control that currently prevents transformative change.


Given that our study focused on the experiences of FOC, we cannot provide broader understanding of the experiences of diverse faculty. We do not know how, for example, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, religion, language, or other factors might shape threat perception and therefore varying intensities and patterns of exclusion and control. In addition, the majority of the participants were African American and many were junior faculty. Although we included narratives from FOC of other ethnicities with seniority and administrators to address these issues, these limitations should be taken into account when considering the transferability of the study findings. Finally, due to time constraints, we were unable to interview each participant twice to clarify meanings and engage in member checking.


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Patterns of Exclusion and Control School Assessment: To What Extent Do Faculty of Color (FOC) Influence the School Culture?

  Do FOC experience stress and anxiety related to racism in the school environment?
  Do FOC receive recognition from students and peers for their contributions to the school?
  Are FOC recognized by students and peers for their expertise at the university or college level?
  Are FOC with different cultural values and ways of being expected to conform to majority norms?
  Do majority faculty feel comfortable with cultural differences and discussions related to systems of oppression? If not, are appropriate ongoing faculty development programs in place to address the issue?
  Do FOC feel welcome as an integral part of the faculty?
  Do FOC feel welcome in the school environment?
  Are FOC fully engaged in making key decisions about the school?
  Are FOC fully integrated into the faculty governance system?
  Are there FOC represented at the most senior ranks of the school?
  Are there FOC in the administrative structure?
Unequal Standards and Access to Resources
  Do FOC receive equal pay relative to majority faculty peers with comparable rank, tenure, and achievements?
  Do FOC have equal opportunity for tenure track and multiyear contract appointments as majority faculty?
  Do FOC receive adequate mentoring and support for advancement?
  Do FOC have access to the same information (formally or informally) as their majority peers?
  Do FOC receive equal access to research investment funds relative to their majority peers?
  Are FOC teaching loads equal to their peers of comparable rank, tenure, and other achievements?
Insincerity (Silencing/Using)
  Do majority faculty handle racism in the classroom appropriately?
  Are majority faculty held accountable for invalidating, othering, silencing, using, or other racist behaviors?
  Do the concerns FOC raise or the ideas put forth, particularly relating to sensitive issues, receive respectful and thoughtful deliberation during meetings?
  Are issues related to diversity or diverse students explored with an awareness of the influence of racism on students and faculty during meetings?
  Have FOC experienced outbursts from majority faculty during meetings in the past? If yes, how were they handled?
  Do FOC meet silence during meetings when they raise key issues?
  Do FOC have a tendency to keep quiet at meetings?
  Is the school sincere about ethnic diversity efforts or is it objectively just lip service? Are there objective measures in place to measure progress?
  Consider the past 3 to 5 years. Are FOC hired and retained? Is this being measured?
  Have FOC been used as tokens?
  Have FOC been exploited by majority faculty for their language skills or access to minority populations without receiving reciprocal invitations to work on other projects or receiving proper credit for their work?
  Do FOC always get tapped to serve on diversity task forces or teach diversity classes?
  Is there a consistent and ongoing history of graduating students of color from academic programs at all levels sufficient to meet the needs of the health care workforce and faculty shortage?
Putting You in Your Place
  Have FOC had their hands slapped or been treated disrespectfully by majority peers for trying to hold students accountable for their work?
  Have FOC been disrespected by students without appropriate follow through or support to address the problem by majority peers?
  Do FOC feel safe in the school environment?

Dr. Hassouneh is Associate Professor, Ms. Akeroyd is doctoral student, Dr. Lutz is Assistant Professor, and Dr. Beckett is Assistant Professor, Oregon Health & Science University, School of Nursing, Portland, Oregon.

This study was supported by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and Sigma Theta Tau International. The authors thank the participants who shared their sometimes very painful experiences in nursing academe. They also thank Rhonda Vander Sluis for her contributions to this work and her thoughtful critique of the manuscript.

The authors have disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Dena Hassouneh, PhD, PMHNP, Associate Professor, Oregon Health & Science University, School of Nursing, 3455 SW US Veterans Hospital Road, Portland, OR 97239; e-mail:


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