Toward a Construct of Balance: Graduate Education Faculty and the Navigation of Difficult Dialogues on Race
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Graduate faculty often engage in the work of facilitating students on issues of race and racism in their diversity related courses. Yet, this task remains extremely difficult for many of them. At the same time, while the literature is rife with student experiences of race talk in the graduate classroom, fewer studies have focused exclusively on the instructor’s personal experience. With over 60% of American universities requiring their students to enroll in a diversity course, and with the recent upsurge in race-focused conflict within society, the need for authentic conversations on race remains critical. By extension, the need for skillful facilitators can only be expected to increase. As such, the purpose of this multiple case study was to describe the experiences of eight graduate education faculty navigating difficult discourses on race in their diversity-related courses. The study employed a qualitative research design to include in-depth interviews, critical incident reflections and analytic memos, for rich insights into each case. Positionality served as a guiding theoretical perspective. Findings from the study indicated that faculty members have largely been engaged in balancing diverse strategies used to work through difficult race talk, and that these are undergirded by three key elements: duality, intentionality and sustainability. As a result, a framework has begun to emerge, toward reflecting a construct of balance for faculty navigating difficult discourses on race.