Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Family Therapy


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Kara Erolin

Committee Member

Anne Rambo

Committee Member

Ron Chenail


American minority racial groups are on the rise and the majority racial group (White) will decrease in size (Vespa, Medina, & Armstrong, 2018). The U.S. population is becoming progressively diverse and projections indicate that by 2050, the elderly population will be 42% minority for the first time in history (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). Racial minority experiences and needs are uniquely influenced by race due to systematic structures historically constructed in the United States (Cole, 2019; Sue, 2019). For many marriage and family therapy (MFT) students, particularly White students, the culture and diversity course is the primary mechanism for exposure to other cultures, learning about oppression, and understanding social issues embedded in societal constructs. In this study, I used interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore six White students' experiences in a culture and diversity course. After thorough analysis, three major themes emerged: class format/structure, being White, and shift in worldview. The findings indicated that participants' experiences were influenced by their race: how they received the course material and decreased their willingness to speak out in class. Participants reported a shift in how they view themselves and others, after completing the diversity course. Implications of the findings for the MFT field and future research are discussed.