The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Experiences of Faculty of Color in Predominantly White Schools of Social Work: A Critical Duoethnography

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 11:00 AM
Executive Center 2B (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Alankaar Sharma, MSW, PhD(ABD), Visiting Instructor, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Ms Valandra, PhD, Assistant Professor, College of Saint Catherine, St Paul, MN
Purpose: Faculty of color in predominantly white schools of social work offer unique strengths and perspectives while facing unique challenges and barriers as well. Underrepresented in the academe, they are often deployed to provide teaching in the content areas of cultural competence and diversity. While this allows them to contribute their knowledge and skills to the academe, it may simultaneously accentuate their minority status and the vulnerabilities that are inherent therein. The authors attempt to discover and uncover racial experiences of faculty of color teaching cultural competence and diversity related content in schools of social work in this duoethnographic study.

Methods: The authors used the analytic duoethnographic research methodology to discuss their lived experiences. Both authors are faculty of color with experiences of teaching diversity related content in predominantly white schools of social work. In an analytic duoethnography, two researchers write together from a place of deeply personal experience which they then connect to a larger theoretical framework in order to explain their stories in ways that may be relatable to others’ stories and experiences and to take their lived experiences to a higher level of abstraction without diminishing the personal voices. The theoretical framework that authors used in this research is that of critical race theory (CRT). The authors freely wrote their stories based on their personal experiences, and then reviewed their teaching notes, personal journal entries, and student evaluations, adding relevant information to their individual narratives as they went along. They then discussed their individual ethnographies in detail with each other to develop a duoethnography, recognizing the similarities and dissimilarities in their experiences. Finally they reviewed the literature by and about racial experiences of faculty of color in predominantly white educational institutions. Using the framework of CRT they identified different themes in their individual and collective stories. 

Results: The themes that were identified included experiencing oneself as an outsider within the Eurocentric academe, biased perceptions from faculty and students of having been hired because of one’s racial or ethic identity, challenges within the classroom that include student resistance to content about social diversity and complaints about “too much content” about diversity, student perceptions that faculty of color unfairly support students of color and are racist, and faculty anxieties about perpetuating stereotypes about the communities of color they belong to while covering content on diversity issues. Within the CRT perspective, we also identified counter-stories of resistance, such as telling our stories of disprivilege in the classroom and thereby creating a climate in which other marginalized stories may be told; and explicitly discussing allegations of racism and bias with faculty mentors as emancipatory experiences for faculty of color.

Implications: This research contributes to the scant but gradually evolving body of knowledge on faculty of color in predominantly white schools of social work. The authors offer suggestions for ways of supporting faculty of color that are important from the perspective of recruiting and retaining faculty from diverse backgrounds in social work educational institutions.