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Findings: How Asian/American EPP Leaders Experience and Negotiate Racialized Stereotypes, Gendered Dynamics, Inequities and Realities

 The “Exploring Leadership Diversity in Educator Preparation Programs: An Asian/American Perspective” series is a multi-article study that aims to share the discoveries of a yearlong study that Nicholas D. Hartlep, Ph.D., and Rachel Endo, Ph.D., undertook during the 2023–2024 academic year. Their qualitative study explored the experiences of current and former Asian/American Education Preparation Program (EPP) leaders via surveys and interviews. Join AACTE for the “Building Intentional Pathways for Asian/Americans and Other BIPOC Faculty to Advance in EPP Leadership,” webinar, an opportunity to delve deeper into themes beyond those explored in the series. Register now for this insightful session on May 29 at 12 p.m. EST.


The average time as an EPP leader for the Asian/Americans interviewed and surveyed was 9.4 years, with a range of 1 to 37 years and a median time of six years. Half of those who responded (n = 6) indicated they wanted to become an EPP leader. One-third said they wished to advance beyond their current EPP role at their current institution (n = 9). Only two of nine said they wanted to be EPP leaders at different institutions. Both expressed dissatisfaction with their current level of compensation. Further, the same two indicated they would like to advance their EPP role at different institutions. Figure 1 shows a breakdown of survey respondents’ perceptions of diversity at their current institution and Figure 2 depicts their satisfaction with their compensation.


Figure 1. Perceived Diversity of Leaders on Campus

Figure 2. Are You Fairly Compensated?
















Findings by Research Questions

Thematic AsianCrit Findings

The voices of the EPP leaders suggested two overarching intersectional experiences that they had as Asian/American EPP leaders: (1) their explicit experiences with racialized stereotypes, and (2) their perceptions of gendered dynamics, inequities, and realities that disproportionately impacted Asian/American women participants. Throughout this section of our findings, we also will provide counter/narratives of how different participants actively contested these experiences with intersectional racism in explicit or implicit ways.

Experiencing and Negotiating Racialized Stereotypes

Across their diverse sociocultural identities, the majority of the EPP leaders experienced some of the most common racially derogatory stereotypes of Asian/Americans that have been well-documented in the literature. Intersectional identities and realities, especially along the lines of ethnicity/nationality, gender, and generation, differently and similarly impacted how the participants experienced individual and institutional racism as current or former EPP leaders, as well as faculty members. However, they reported being constructed as high-achieving model minorities, honorary Whites, and perpetual foreigners (Ng, Lee, & Pak, 2007; Tuan, 1998). Moreover, a through-line was experiencing both hypervisibility as racialized bodies and invisibility as Asian/Americans situated within essentializing campus racial policies, often along non-Asian BIPOC versus White frameworks, that often erase Asian/American experiences (see Lee, 2022).

Several participants experienced hypervisibility as racialized bodies at their institutions and within their EPPs. They felt the burden of scrutiny of being among a few or the lone Asian/American in White-dominated spaces. As Man 5 shared, “Being Asian/American on top of being an administrator as a level of hyperfocus on you. …You’re just not doing a job. You’re doing a job as somebody who’s identifying as Asian/American and is seen as such in the public.” Man 2 similarly notes, “I’m often the only one that’s not White in the room. I continue to go, and it was the same in [name of the previous institution]; I was the only dean of color there. I am the only dean of color here [too].” Asian/American women participants noted how hypervisibility distinctly impacted them in different ways than men. Woman 5 reflected, “I don’t know of very many Asian American deans out there. I’m probably one out of what, four or five. And then even less so when you’re a woman” and Woman 2 similarly shared “[…] folks have to understand that the leaders who are Asian American and women, they’re quite often one of a few or one of the only.”

As Asian/Americans do not neatly fit into Black/White or other common racialized political frameworks (Black/Brown-White) common in U.S. higher education research (see Kim, 1999), despite being constructed and perceived by others as being “not White,” many participants reported experiences with erasure and invisibility, especially when pertaining to the invisible labor they invest in EPPs, especially around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Several examples suggest that the model minority stereotype fueled how they were treated and viewed by colleagues and leaders, both people who are non-Asian/American, BIPOC, and/or White. A common example of invisibility was reported experiences of being racialized by others as being honorary Whites, which diminishes how Asian/Americans historically and presently experience racism (Tuan, 1998). Man 1 summarized the general sentiment: “But again, it’s going into this story that because Asian Americans are the minority they’re not like other people of color. And so, when you talk about people of color representation within leadership roles, Asian Americans don’t help to bolster those numbers. Asian/Americans are read more like Whites.” Woman 2 similarly reflected, “I think that identity politics is at play always, particularly in the academy. And we always don’t figure into those BIPOC conversations because folks don’t know where to put us. They usually put us with Whites.”

Some participants recognized how White dominance and White supremacy play into how EPPs are situated, providing complex analyses of how simply diversifying the faculty and leadership of EPPs may not fulfill critical goals of promoting revolutionary equity-focused approaches to the field that would benefit several stakeholders. For instance, Woman 3 noted:

“I know that there are definitely a lot of people of color who are tools of White supremacy and will do the institution’s bidding. But I think when you have people of color who are not going to put up with that, it’s either going to be really demoralizing to try to work within this White supremacist institution and the structures where you’re dealing with teacher preparation that’s basically focused on the White pre-service teachers or if you’re really passionate about trying to change it, you’re going to piss off a lot of people likely.”

Like Woman 3, Man 4 strongly critiqued the model-minority stereotype but had the unique experience of not directly being subjected to it, because he explicitly identifies as a radical scholar. It also is possible that as a man and a mixed-race Asian/American with a White parent, he was differently racialized than the other participants of this study.

“[…] I feel like there’s a whole thing around how people view Asian/Americans in general as quiet or quieter and more passive, oftentimes with less authority. So, I don’t feel like I’ve had to deal with that because I brought a whole bunch of authority in with me right into the position, but I know that the way folks generally view Asian/Americans, the way they view Asian/American students, the way they view Asian/American faculty, I think that applies for Asian/American administrators in terms of that’s model minority crap. Folks know me as a radical and as an anti-model minority. So, I haven’t had to deal with that in a way that I think other folks would’ve for sure.”

Gendered Dynamics, Inequities, and Realities

Gendered dynamics and realities especially disproportionately impacted several Asian/American women participants in our study in terms of their professional experiences as EPP faculty and leaders. While there is ample literature on the derogatory types of gendered racism that Asian/American men experience (Iwamoto & Liu, 2009), they were not salient in our study. Thus, the primary focus will analyze gendered differences in Asian/American EPP leaders’ experiences around two key themes: (a) gendered racism experienced by women, and (b) differential opportunities and self-perceptions about their leadership abilities based on gender. Note: this finding also connects to the previous thematic finding, as gendered racism also has dimensions of different racialized stereotypes as explored in the previous section.

Gendered racism, which is the intersection of lived experiences with both racism and sexism, especially for cisgender Asian/American girls and women (Lee & Vaught, 2003), uniquely impacted most of the Asian/American women participants of this study. The socio-historical context of the United States’ geopolitical involvement throughout different parts of Asia has to do with Asian girls and women being exploited and objectified, primarily by White men, as servants or sex workers, as well as infantilized as childlike (Shimizu, 2007). As Woman 2 remarks:

“…the four roles that Asian/Americans are positioned […]. So, one of them I already talked about is the servant, the faithful servant. The “Hop Lee” will always take care of things, take care of you, and make sure everything is okay…The second one… the “Susie Wong” prostitute, that kind of thing. The “Fu Manchu”, [is] the evil villain who can’t be trusted, who is sly and inscrutable … And the last one is the infant. And I felt that in my time in the academy […]. I’ve experienced all those roles.”

Moreover, Woman 2 shared, “So, I think that there are general perceptions of Asian/Americans as being good servants. She’ll take care of it. She always does such a great job. Give it to Woman 2, she’ll manage it. And, as a result, I think you get piled up with a lot of stuff that doesn’t lead anywhere, really. Managing all admissions and working with supervisors, and what have you, it doesn’t do anything for you.” Woman 2’s reality is quite different from, say, Man 4’s reality, who as a male EPP leader had the following to say: “As a dean, I actually felt the financial support was very good. In fact, when I wanted to move from two associate deans to three associate deans; the provost just moved funding to allow me to do that. Didn’t even tell me she was giving me additional funding. I learned about this afterwards. I was like, what? That is incredibly generous. And I had a huge pool of money…”

The Asian/American men who participated in this study generally experienced fewer barriers to entering their EPP leadership roles. While a good mix of participants, women and men, were appointed into interim or permanent roles at their current institutions, women EPP leaders were more likely to have been hired through national searches and generally had more years of progressively responsible leadership experiences. For instance, Man 2 mentioned that before becoming a dean of education, “I ran a program for about a semester, but I never went into administration beyond a faculty member […] I previously never served as an Associate, a Department Chair, Associate Dean, or anything like that.” Man 3 stated that his Provost at the time, a White man, created a leadership position for him at the institution where he was already a long-time faculty member, and further, encouraged him to participate in leadership institutes to prepare him for career advancement. Similarly, When Man 4 came to his current institution as a new faculty member, he was immediately approached by campus leadership for a cabinet-level position. A few years later, when his dean announced plans to retire, Man 4 approached his Provost to indicate interest in the permanent position and was eventually appointed to the role without a national search.

In contrast, Asian/American women generally had to apply for leadership positions through national searches or leave their home institutions to advance in their careers. Some other general equity gaps emerged in terms of the women’s career trajectories. For example, Woman 4 took on her leadership role in an EPP without tenure and has moved across different institutions because she primarily felt there was insufficient protected time to focus on her research because of the heavy load of being in an administrative position in addition to the unsustainable service load she carried as a woman of color faculty. She described her EPPs as generally toxic workplace climates to the point she was willing to reset her tenure clock to start over in new institutions. Similarly, Woman 5 has served as both an Associate Dean and Dean at two different institutions. In part, she left her associate dean position because “[…] I felt very spread thin because of, again, the size of the college, the complexity of my job.” Other women participants shared that the reasons they have either considered leaving their current roles or have left already are or were because of unsustainable workloads that involved heavy clerical work generally assigned to staff, such as event planning and scheduling. Woman 2 remarked, “I was in charge of a whole lot of stuff. I ordered a lot of food and organized a lot of meetings […] I did so many shit jobs.” Woman 1 also shared that only after receiving a counteroffer from another institution did her leadership provide her with a full-time staff assistant, but she still “[…] felt like I was doing a lot of the clerical work because my assistant needed help” and “I feel like that also has taken a toll over these years.”

Several participants of this study, of both genders, inherited challenging or turn-around situations as EPP leaders, where there were realities such as budget and enrollment shortfalls and low morale. However, their confidence in their leadership abilities, as well as the support they received from their colleagues, leaders, and institutions, were much different based on gender. Men generally described greater aspirations to serve as leaders and confidence in their leadership abilities. For instance, Man 3 shared that despite being in a declining EPP, “I like to go to places that are having some challenges and trying to make it better.” Man 1 remarked that when he became a Dean, “I think was the perfect role for me at that moment. I felt like I had learned so much about leadership and here was an opportunity to do exactly what I wanted to do, which is to try to see if you can build a different kind of institution.” In contrast, more Asian/American women participants either did not see themselves as leaders or questioned their abilities and qualifications. Quotes such as “So, my trajectory really, it wasn’t as if I was looking into going into administration” (Woman 1) and “I wasn’t aspiring into a leadership role” (Woman 5) suggests that many women were not aspiring to become leaders but ended up doing so reluctantly or with greater reservations than men. Moreover, women participants were more likely to internalize self-doubting messages about their ability to serve as leaders compared to men. For example, Woman 3 notes “Or [others] talk me into [leadership] when I was talking myself out of things, because I just didn’t feel like I was good enough” and Woman 5 similarly shared, “For no good reason, quite honestly,” when she reflected about being appointed into her first major leadership role.

While these overall findings align with the existing research on gendered differences, especially how women are more likely than men to experience barriers to formal leadership pathways, there are some specific implications connected to their experiences as Asian/Americans. For one, several of the Asian/American women’s distinct experience with gendered racism also connects to acts and narratives of resistance. For example, Woman 5 noted that she “was balancing my role and my duty as a mother and my role in duty as a faculty member” and mostly did not engage in toxic campus or departmental politics, intentionally separating the demands of her role as a dean and prioritizing her family’s needs. Woman 1 similarly navigated challenging campus and departmental politics but actively and publicly rejected the gendered racism she encountered: “[…]obviously, there’s the gendered aspect to it. And yeah, I get pushback especially amongst the older White males, not only in my department, but I can tell across campus. But what they have to realize is, I fight back. But part of that too, it could be my perception of their perceptions of me, that I’m weak, that I have a potty mouth and I can lay it right back at them on that.”


Iwamoto, D. K., & Liu, W. M. (2009). Asian American men and Asianized attribution: Intersections of masculinity, race, and sexuality. In N. Tewari & A. N. Alvarez (Eds.), Asian American psychology: Current perspectives (pp. 211–232). Routledge.

Lee, S. J., & Vaught, S. (2003). ‘You can never be too rich or too thin’: Popular and consumer culture and the Americanization of Asian American adolescent girls and young women. Journal of Negro Education, 72(4), 457–466. DOI: 10.2307/3211196

Ng, J. C., Lee, S. S., & Pak, Y. K. (2007). Contesting the model minority and perpetual foreigner stereotypes: A critical review of literature on Asian Americans in education. Review of Research in Education, 31(1), 95–130. DOI: 10.3102/0091732X06298015

Tuan, M. (1998). Forever foreigners or honorary whites? The Asian ethnic experience today. Rutgers University Press.

Shimizu, C. P. (2007). The Hypersexuality of race: Performing Asian/American women on screen and scene. Duke University Press.

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