Behind the Scenes: “It’s a Double-Edged Sword”

“It’s a Double-Edged Sword”: A Collaborative Autoethnography of Women of Color Higher Education and Student Affairs Administrators who Teach in the College Classroom

Ginny Jones Boss, Nadeeka Karunaratne, Carol Huang, Aliya Beavers, Veratta Pegram-Floyd, & Kimberly C. Tullos (not pictured)

This work was born out of a conversation between the first two authors, Nadeeka and Ginny. While pursuing her master’s in student affairs, Nadeeka taught leadership classes to undergraduates at her institution. When she began to encounter issues in the classroom connected to her intersected identities, particularly as a woman of color who was not a faculty member, she began to look for resources to help make meaning of her experiences. At the time, Ginny served as a faculty member in Nadeeka’s master’s program and given Ginny’s work on teaching and learning and her identities as a racially minoritized woman, Nadeeka sought out Ginny’s input and support. They quickly realized the teaching experiences of non-faculty women of color were woefully underrepresented in the literature. They sought out a community of other women of color who had similar experiences within the academy and worked with the other authors of this piece to provide an empirically-based resource for better understanding women of color administrators’ experiences teaching on predominantly or historically White college campuses.  An examination of these experiences signals challenges non-faculty Women of Color may encounter in the classroom that exacerbate challenges, documented in literature, experienced by their faculty counterparts. Our work explores the added complexity non-faculty status introduces to the classroom context and how some Women have navigated it.


Colleges and universities looking to reduce cost often use non-tenure track instructional staff. One understudied group within the literature of non-tenure track instructional staff includes higher education and student affairs administrators who teach classes alongside their non-academic administrative work. This study leveraged critical race feminism as a theoretical framework and collaborative autoethnographic methods in order to examine the experiences of Women of Color in the classroom. The findings illustrate the ways Women of Color’s social identities impact how students engage with them in the classroom and the additional labor and responsibilities assumed as a result. In particular, the findings describe how societal, institutional, and classroom contexts influence how Women of Color administrators make meaning of their teaching experiences. The implications of this study reveal Women of Color to be deeply committed to student learning and champions of diverse and critical perspectives in the classroom. Based upon their findings, the authors offer recommendations for how key stakeholders can better support Women of Color administrators’ teaching.


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