Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Shattering the Mirror: An Autoethnographic Study of White Womanhood and Student Affairs Public Deposited

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  • This thesis analyzes the relationship between whiteness, womanhood, and the profession of student affairs using the method of autoethnography and the guiding question: How does my personal understanding of white womanhood affect my work and role as a student affairs practitioner? The researcher identifies three goals at the beginning of the research: (1) to encourage more white women student affairs practitioners to engage in personal reflection about their racial and gender identities and how these identities relate to higher education; (2) to critically evaluate how I have been socialized as a white woman to understand my own privilege and marginalization in a United States context; (3) to identify ways in which white women student affairs practitioners can better work with white women students on the intersection of racial and gender identity development. Aligned with the goals of autoethnography, the researcher aims to situate her own story within and alongside the culture and story of student affairs. Data collection included self-inventory, self-reflection, self-observation, and external data sources such as interviews with student affairs practitioners. Then, the researcher analyzed the data through story and found three themes; characteristics of white supremacy culture (specifically perfectionism, individualism, and professionalism), the need for validation and desire to be “good”, and silence. The results suggest that socialized whiteness and socialized womanhood each are important aspects to pursuing a career in student affairs. The results also suggest a personal sense of disconnection and the need to re-evaluate the purpose of social justice in student affairs for white women. Recommendations to practitioners include evaluating multicultural and antiracist education practices utilized in student affairs to ensure racial identity education is not solely for the benefit of white students. In addition, practitioners (particularly white practitioners) should engage in autoethnographic and self-reflection processes in order to better understand their individual participation in white supremacy. Third, the author recommends that white women practitioners continually question what it means to create brave spaces for white women students and colleagues to bring forward questions. White women practitioners should also evaluate their role in giving validation or not in these situations. Lastly, because of the nature of autoethnography, the author provides personal recommendations for herself.
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