Intended Date of Award

2014

Degree Name

Doctorate in Public Administration (DPA)

Chair

Kris Norman-Major

Vice-Chair

James Bonilla

Committee Member

Pa Der Vang

Abstract

This study explored personal and organizational factors that contribute to White public administrators actively representing the interests of racial minority minorities. Data collection comprised of 15 semi-structured interviews. The average age was 54, and the length of service was 3-33 years. Subjects were asked about their personal background, what it means to be White, and work experiences in local county government.

Personal factors found were racial consciousness, major life events, and significant relationships with people of color. Organizational factors included a diverse and inclusive work environment, bureaucracy, legal and compliance issues, and supervisor support. Findings included that Whites did not have to be racially conscious to actively represent racial minority interests. Patterns of active representation were organized into three types: deliberate, partial, and conformist. Duality in organizational factors emerged as facilitative and limiting. New factors emerged: supervisor support, leadership engagement, and external factors. All subjects adopted a role to represent racial minority interests but role adoption did not mean behaviors were consistent with beliefs. Seeing solutions to address racial disparities appeared to be less possible without racial consciousness to move to deliberate action.

This study is unique in the field of public administration. Findings challenged assumptions about active representation from previous research from the White majority. In particular, the assumption that role adoption means effective representation. Organizational factors previously identified only as limitations were also found to be facilitative. Primary limitations in this study included a small sample size with results unable to be generalized for all White public administrators.