Date of Graduation

Spring 5-19-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Organization and Leadership (O&L)


School of Education



First Advisor

Seenae Chong

Second Advisor

Desiree Zerquera


Higher education was not originally built to benefit people of color. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are many ways in which universities seek to change higher education. However, higher education has a staff retention problem and is at risk of losing more than half of its current workforce. Retention problems also impact entry-level staff of color who perform DEI in universities. Through a lens of interest convergence and neoliberalism, this qualitative study gathered the experiences of entry-level staff of color who perform DEI in student affairs, looked at how their experiences are shaped by the structures of the university, and examined the relationship between university structures and racism that affected entry-level staff of color. Participants in this study consisted of six current entry-level staff of color from three public Hispanic Serving Institutions in California. The findings from this study contributed to the limited research on entry-level staff of color performing DEI in higher education. The experiences revealed by the participants are org­­anized into six themes: (1) identities influenced DEI positions, (2) joy experienced by performing DEI, (3) value found in supervisors with similar identities, (4) funding insecurities harm DEI staff, (5) budget cuts impact DEI initiatives, and (6) racism often experienced in university structures. Findings suggests entry-level staff of color are at the crossroads of working in environments which embrace their marginalized identities yet are situated in institutions that have made all participants think about resigning due to the oppressive treatment they systematically endure while performing DEI. Recommendations were developed from findings, which include practices in how universities can retain entry-level staff of color who perform DEI, and suggestions for future research to include entry-level staff of color and their experiences in higher education.