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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Administration and Leadership

First Advisor

Rachelle Hackett

First Committee Member

Dennis Brennan

Second Committee Member

Stephen Davis

Third Committee Member

Bea Lingenfelter


This study investigated the perceptions undergraduate students of color held of their experiences while attending a private, predominately white, institution and the impact that perception had on their sense of belonging and academic experiences. This two-phase, sequential mixed methods study obtained statistical, quantitative results from a sample of students of color and then followed up with a few individuals to probe and explore those results in more depth. In the quantitative portion, the concept of stigma vulnerability was explored utilizing the Prejudice Perception Assessment Scale . A non-experimental correlational design was utilized to ascertain which variables were predictive of students' stigma vulnerability and whether differences in stigma vulnerability existed between Asian, African American, and Latino groups once gender, major, semesters on campus, and home community diversity were accounted for. In the qualitative segment, phenomenology was used to investigate student perceptions through focus group discussion. Unstructured focus group discussions were employed to investigate perceptions of the college experience between students who scored higher and lower on the PPAS. The quantitative results of the study indicated that none of the variables hypothesized to be predictive of stigma vulnerability were found to be statistically significant. However, the qualitative findings revealed interesting similarities in perception between students with higher and lower PPAS scores. The focus group interviews revealed the following themes: Stigma/Tokenism, Racism, Inequitable Treatment, White Student Insensitivity, Privilege, Competency Testing, Nature of Diversity, Insignificance of Diversity, and Uncomfortable Climate. By examining how students of color perceived the campus environment, including perceptions of social interactions, educators can begin to take progressive and proactive action toward building an inclusive environment that models meaningful diversity. Suggestions for future research and implications for practice are discussed.





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