Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education



First Advisor

Annemarie Vaccaro


The call for engaging undergraduate students in internships is getting louder, not fading away. Undergraduate students are increasingly faced with experiential learning requirements that complement their studies and provide real world experience to increase marketability when looking for a job. This qualitative research study explores the experience of interns from racially minoritized populations to gain understanding of how racial microaggressions are experienced at this unique time. Research has shown that racial microaggressions are experienced in school environments (Beasley as reported in Jones, 2013; Burns, 2014; Davila, 2014; Solorzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000) and workplace environments (Flores, 2013; Gardner & Tyson, 1994), thus this research study assumed that racial microaggressions would occur during internships.

Using hermeneutic phenomenology as a methodology, the researcher interviewed six participants twice to investigate their experiences with racism and racial microaggressions experienced during their internships. The interview transcripts were analyzed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to code and develop themes across participant descriptions (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009).

Four prevalent themes emerged from the data: (1) subtle racial microaggressions, (2) environmental racial microaggressions, (3) microassaults, and (4) absence of racial microaggressions. The absence of racial microaggressions is included in the findings to include all participant experiences and provide another dimension into the intern experience. The theme of subtle racial microaggressions includes two additional topics to address participant questioning and confusion: (1) attributional ambiguity and (2) intersectionality.

The findings of this research study have implications for the practice of intern programs: (1) internship seminar curricula changes to increase opportunities for interns from minoritized populations to explore how racial microaggressions experienced affect their sense of self and their experience; (2) training in identifying and responding to interns who have experienced racial microaggressions; and (3) training for internship supervisors to become more attuned to how racial microaggressions or issues of race may play out for interns from minoritized populations.



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