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Audon Archibald

Alvin Akibar

Everrett Moore

Kyjeila Latimer



An Organized Approach to Student Employee Training on Microaggressions

Audon Archibald, B.S., Alvin Akibar, M.S., Everrett Moore, B.S., Kyjeila Latimer, B.S.
University of North Texas

We often assume that our day to day experiences are similar to that of others, even if our individual realities are far removed from one another. Two individuals may come away with completely different interpretations of the same situation. Among these are microaggressions– often unintentional or non-overt verbal, behavioral, and environmental manifestations of bias. Microaggressions may invalidate a person’s achievements based on their identities (e.g. suggesting a Black student must only be in school on athletic scholarships) or make assumptions that a person must be interested in a topic purely anchored on their identity (e.g. Asian students being asked about their expertise in school without consideration otherwise). These comments incite stress in the moment they are delivered and relate to negative long-term outcomes, such as lower self-esteem and even weakened immune system responses (Sue, 2010).

Given that the transition to life as a university student is a particularly important period in a student’s education, especially for students who live on campus, it is imperative that residence life staff are versed on the topic of microaggressions to best support their student body (Gall, Evans, & Bellerose, 2000). The need for this is heightened given that young adults attending college today are more diverse than ever before (National Institute of Health, 2015). As such, our team developed a training program for over 150 residence life staff at the University of North Texas (UNT). We used highlights of students’ experiences with microaggressions in a film entitled Microaggressions in the Classroom, developed by Dr. Yolanda Flores Niemann in collaboration with the UNT Department of Media Arts. Over 14 hours of student and faculty experiences with microaggressions were collected and funneled to create an 18-minute film in which members of the campus community gave their unscripted thoughts on their experiences with microaggressions committed by, and against, them. From there, training focused on defining and identifying different types of microaggressions, how to respond after committing or experiencing one, and group discussions placing these interactions in the context of national and local campus events.

Training participants reported strong connection to the sentiments expressed in the film, with almost a third reporting that they themselves had experienced the same microaggression described in the film. Over half of the student residence life employees reported a better understanding of what microaggressions were, and also felt more confident and empowered to intervene if witnessing microaggressions against another. Participants also reported that the video and group discussion portions of the experience were the most preferred and successful parts of the training, suggesting that other training ventures should include these components. Overall, student employees responded favorably to the training and most successfully took away valuable strategies (e.g., such as sharing personal experiences to challenge underlying stereotypes of assumptions) and definitions (e.g., differentiating impact and intent of microassaults, microinvalidations, and microinsults) to prep them to effectively support the undergraduate students they oversee. The importance of this support, especially for students from historically marginalized backgrounds, cannot be understated as a key factor in student success.


Gall, T., Evans, D., & Bellerose, S. (2000). Transition to first-year university: Patterns of change

            in adjustment across life domains and time. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology,

            19, 544-567. doi:10.1521/jscp.2000.19.4.54

National Institute of Health. (2015) Young Adults More Likely to Attend College. Retrieved



Sue, D.W. (2010). Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, gender, and sexual orientation.

            John Wiley & Sons.


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