Date of Graduation

Spring 5-16-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

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


School of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Seenae Chong


The student affairs profession is predominantly female, but women, especially women of color (WOC), are disproportionately in entry-level positions. The majority of student affairs professionals also believe social justice is important but desire more support for their social justice work. This study examined how early career WOC perceived the power dynamics that they encountered in their social justice-oriented organizational change efforts, the strategies and tactics they utilized to lead change efforts, and the aspects of their identities that were the most salient to them during their change efforts. The study design used a phenomenology methodology and an intersectionality theoretical framework. Data from six study participants was analyzed using a pre-interview survey and a semi-structured interview protocol.

The key findings were grouped in the following conceptual categories: identity, relationships, organization/institution, and social justice. The concepts of identity and relationships were especially intertwined, but awareness of identity was also a recurring theme when interviewees spoke about organization/institution and social justice. The data indicate that the difficulties experienced by early career WOC come from a combination of external challenges with their colleagues and organization and internalized challenges with self-confidence. The findings suggest some of the unique strategies and tactics that early career WOC develop to navigate these challenges and lead social justice change. Peer relationships provide a highly appreciated and valuable source of support. The discussion suggests numerous strategies that early WOC, allies, and social justice advocates can apply in their work, which include putting emphases on self-advocacy, collaboration, and community-building.