Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication Studies

First Advisor

Joshua Hanan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Frank Tuitt

Third Advisor

Christina Foust

Fourth Advisor

Darrin Hicks


Critical Rhetorical Ethnography, Critical Whiteness Studies, Dialogue, Diversity, Inclusive Excellence


This dissertation questions how a predominantly white institution (PWI) could infuse dialogue to aid the implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and invite institutional change. There has been an increased spotlight on racial tensions permeating predominantly white campuses with DEI initiatives; higher education scholars have identified several factors that prevent institutions from fostering inclusive spaces. This research addresses three specific hurdles for PWIs implementing DEI initiatives: (1) social amnesia characterized by romanticized versions of history; (2) a discontinuity between professed values and the goals of DEI initiatives with policy, structure, and experience; and (3) low awareness of privilege and oppression coupled with a lack of dialogic skills to engage across difference. Analysis focused on how dialogue could potentially disrupt these roadblocks. Through the research tools of critical rhetorical ethnography, intersectionality, and critical whiteness, this dissertation examines the following pieces of inclusive excellence (IE) rhetoric at the University of Denver (DU): historical legacies, documents, and the researcher’s experiences and observations as a student, teacher, activist, and scholar.

Analysis showed dissonance within the rhetoric of IE and hope in a newly implemented dialogue initiative. This dissertation considers the usefulness of dialogue for inviting positive change at PWIs that implement DEI initiatives while also responding to a need for more research to understand how to teach students to dialogue. Further, results showed that an undergraduate course that gives students space to develop and build skills necessary to dialogue will increase IE efforts on campus, prepare students to navigate a conflict-ridden culture and workplace, and create opportunities for students to become change agents in the world. The researcher advocates that institutions begin teaching students the communicative skills necessary to dialogue about privilege and oppression in order to motivate and prepare change agents within our nation’s institutions and throughout the world, within a cultural moment shaped by polarization, confusion, and frustration.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Amanda Meise


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

205 p.


Communication, Higher education