Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Elisabeth Brauner

Committee Members

Alexis Kuerbis

Nicholas Freudenberg

Subject Categories

Higher Education | Public Health | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Diversity, Positive Deviance Theory, Critical Race Theory, Organizational Culture Theory, Public Health, Schools of Public Health, Health Equity, Admissions, Recruitment, Workforce, Higher Education, Students, Blacks and Latinx


The goal to eliminate health disparities and achieve health equity has remained a consistent public health and social welfare challenge for the United States. Schools of public health, despite being disproportionately White, are charged with the important task of training a diverse workforce of master and doctoral-level public health students to protect and promote the overall health of the nation with research, policy, and practice. Experiences and practices related to the recruitment, admission, enrollment, and graduation of students of color, specifically Blacks and Latinx, warrant further research. Positive deviance theory, critical race theory, and organizational culture theory informed this research. There are some data for physicians, dentists, and nurses. However, there is a gap in the literature for public health professionals about the role of workforce diversity among public health professionals and health equity. The research consisted of two studies. Study One examined what the numbers say about diversity. Study Two examined what the schools say about diversity. Between 2010 and 2020, for all degrees and across all schools of public health, the total number of applications by Black and Latinx prospective students increased significantly each year on average by 2% while acceptances increased on average by 6%. The total number of Black and Latinx students enrolling in public health master’s programs in accredited schools of public health increased by 5%. However, the total number of Black and Latinx students enrolling in public health doctoral programs did not significantly change over time. For Study Two, a 2021 self-report electronic survey was sent to staff at schools of public health to ascertain information about recruitment and admission practices. The main takeaways from Study Two are that there is a great variance about the definition of diversity at schools of public health. Furthermore, some schools of public health are ready to implement changes but do not know where to start whereas others have no sense of urgency. Among schools that have made the greatest strides, diversity goals are coupled with policy and practice. Recommendations for improving admission and graduations of Black and Latinx are included in this dissertation. Ultimately, the results from both studies reveal that more research, including qualitative data on student experiences related to recruitment, admission, and enrollment are needed to increase diversity at schools of public health.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Monday, September 30, 2024

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