Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Casey Maugh Funderburk

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Heather M. Annulis

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Bhagyashree Barhate

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. H. Quincy Brown

Committee Member 4 School



Proactive onboarding is essential to a long-term retention strategy. Past research has highlighted the challenge of retaining diverse faculty and staff and how an unwelcoming climate affects the decisions of leaving or staying for faculty and staff of color differently than their White coworkers. Using Bauer’s Four Cs framework, this study explores the role of first-year onboarding experiences in the retention of faculty and staff of color at predominantly white institutions (PWIs) in higher education. Purposive sampling was used to select participants, and semi-structured one-on-one interviews were conducted with nine faculty and staff of color at a PWI in Southern Mississippi. Data analysis revealed that informal learn-as-you-go first year, perceived trust and support, impacting student experience, navigating culture, and leadership influence played a role in the onboarding experience. Findings showed that faculty and staff of color experience isolation and imposter syndrome, but their motivation to remain with the institution stems from work they do to create a more culturally competent environment for students. To enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices in onboarding, these findings suggest implementing human capital development (HCD) proactive strategies that intentionally cover compliance, clarification, culture, and connection to improve the retention of faculty and staff of color at a PWI.

Available for download on Wednesday, December 31, 2025