Experiences of agency in historically underrepresented racial and ethnic dental faculty at predominantly white institutions

Lisa N. Yarbrough*, Abigail Konopasky, Tasha R. Wyatt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose/objectives: Historically underrepresented racial and ethnic (HURE) dentists remain underrepresented in dental education and dental practice, and surprisingly, little is known about the factors that enable them to thrive. The lack of information about their experiences is a critical gap in the literature. The purpose of this critical qualitative study is to describe how HURE dental faculty in predominantly white institutions (PWIs) exercise agency to thrive and advance in academic promotion when faced with challenges and adversity in the workplace. Methods: Thirteen semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2021 and 2022 with HURE dental faculty from 10 different institutions. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using the construct of agency and tenets of critical race theory to understand how they thrive in their institutions. Results: HURE dental faculty experienced racism as normal from both faculty and students. Racism centered around white faculty guarding access to white spaces, including things that should be open to everyone like meetings and information about promotion. To counter this, HURE faculty engaged in individual agency by fighting for their perspectives to be heard, proxy agency by seeking and building relationships with mentors and colleagues who could use their whiteness to create change, and improvisational agency by going outside their institutions for support. Conclusion(s): To thrive in PWIs requires HURE faculty to exercise various forms of agency to directly or indirectly advocate for themselves as professionals. These findings have implications for dental leaders to change their existing structures and improve the work environments for HURE dental faculty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)764-773
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Dental Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • agency
  • critical race theory
  • dental
  • ethnic and racial minorities
  • faculty
  • qualitative research


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