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Combating the Impact of White Institutional Presence Through Wellness Services

Leslie Jensen Prideaux, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The psychological and physical wellness of collegians is directly tied to their successful completion of a college degree (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2021). Decades of research document racial trauma and stress among non-white student populations in higher education, particularly Black students (Carter, 2007; Harrell, 2000; Wei et al., 2010). An important area of inquiry then is to examine how institutions of higher education support the psychological and physical wellness of Black students. This dissertation explores how psychological and wellness services in higher education support positive psychological outcomes for Black students. Additionally, this study seeks to better understand the role of whiteness in the relationship between Black student experiences and campus wellness services at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI). Whiteness, a concept that means the normalization and elevated social status of white racial identity, manifests on college campuses in several ways including historical exclusion of minoritized populations, practices that cater to students with majoritarian traits, colorblind or race-neutral policies and so much more (Williams, 2020). Leveraging a White Institutional Presence Framework, I use a case study approach to better understand if and how this institution is supporting the positive psychological outcomes for Black students and combating white institutional presence through their wellness departments. I found that even though wellness services operate with a race-conscious approach in their recreation, counseling, and student health services, it did not substantively improve the experiences of the Black students interviewed. The challenges encountered by Black student participants varied greatly. The research found that wellness services do support students, though it may not be recognized to combat racial trauma. Further, the study recognized how whiteness infiltrates campus in ways that are damaging creating an isolating and lonely campus experience for Black students.

Subject Area

Educational leadership

Recommended Citation

Prideaux, Leslie Jensen, "Combating the Impact of White Institutional Presence Through Wellness Services" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29167402.