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Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2016

Author Requested Restriction

Open Access (no restriction)

Work Type

Ed.D. Capstone Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Educational Leadership (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Christine A. Stevens

Second Advisor

Janet Primomo

Third Advisor

George Tomlin



This critical ethnographic study examined occupational therapy as a field that has maintained the historic exclusion of students of color through mainstream professional academic practice. In particular this paper explores systemic barriers that influence secondary to post-secondary pipeline decisions for urban, high school students of color. The tenets of critical race and Freirean critical theory guided analysis of the data collected from field notes, individual interviews and focus group discussions. Three categories representing student experiences with making post-secondary decisions emerged from the study: (a) navigating the system, (b) making choices, and (c) no interest in healthcare. Additional findings including in- and outside-the-classroom relationships have profound influence on student decision-making processes related to higher education access, as does student agency in the use of strategies and technology to help with college and career choice. With minimal reported knowledge of occupational therapy, five of the six students reported having no interest in a healthcare career because of a dislike for science courses. The results of this study have direct implications far beyond occupational therapy, and suggest concrete improvement in allied healthcare pathways from high school to profession. Specific findings suggest that professionals and educators should consider oppressive attitudes, structures, and practices in secondary and post-secondary education that prevent recognition and support of skills and strengths exhibited by high school students of color.