Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education



First Advisor

Annemarie Vaccaro


This dissertation presents findings from a constructivist grounded theory study on the process in which white women in STEM commit to racial justice. The research here captures not only the complexity of racial justice activism in white women, both the participants and my own, but is also grounded in the current events of the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted during a particularly brutal string of murders on Black people by law enforcement in the United States. This dissertation serves to unpack how white supremacy is both rejected and embodied by those attempting to commit to racial justice and to offer suggestions for a way forward towards anti-racism that will truly dismantle white supremacy in both individuals and institutions.

The individual chapters in this dissertation are organized according to the three-paper dissertation format required by the joint Education Doctoral program of the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College. As such, Chapter 1 provides an introduction to my study, explores how I came to be interested in racial justice activism in STEM, and places context around my dissertation through a brief literature review and overview of my methodology. To begin, my first paper, Chapter 2, details the tension between using constructivist grounded theory as a methodology while holding a critical paradigm. This paper helps open the dissertation as it provides insight into my methodological choices as I navigated the research process. Next, Chapter 3 explores the emergent model built from the grounded theory study and presents the main findings of this dissertation. This paper is arguably the most complex as it takes 36 women’s experiences to build a model that reflects how white women in STEM commit to racial justice. Given the historical demarcation surrounding the protests of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic that has continued to plague the globe, Chapter 4 unpacks the temporal process of activism, noting the rise and the fall of both the participants and society's participation in racial justice advocacy. Finally, Chapter 5 concludes the dissertation and offers high-level implications and next steps for research.

Chapters 2 through 4 are meant to serve as stand-alone, publishable manuscripts. While each chapter has a unique perspective, all chapters are grounded in the following original research questions: 1) How do white women who consider themselves committed to racial justice describe their process of navigating through STEM fields? And 2) How do these women connect their situated identities (gender, race/ethnicity, STEM identity) with being committed to racial justice broadly, and in STEM specifically? Each chapter expands upon these research questions and offers unique insights into white women’s activism in racial justice. Within each chapter, the specific implications and limitations of the papers presented here are addressed.

Available for download on Friday, May 17, 2024