Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Karen L. Suyemoto

Second Advisor

David W. Pantalone

Third Advisor

Laurel D. Wainwright


Allies play an important role in moving social justice causes forward and resisting oppression. Allies are individuals who have privilege and work in their personal and professional lives to end oppression (Washington & Evans, 1991). Several components of being an ally, and factors that facilitate ally development, have been identified. However, existing research often focuses on a specific kind of ally, or a specific context of development, such as White anti-racist allies and college campuses, respectively. Less is known about the general experience of the process of becoming an ally. In the present study, I aimed to address the gap in the literature by addressing the following question: What is the experience of being, and the process of becoming, an ally? What awarenesses, empowerment, attitudes, beliefs, or changes take place, and how?

This study used a constructivist grounded theory approach. I examined twenty-eight semi-structured interviews through a constant comparative analysis (Cresswell, 2007) to develop a theory about the developmental process of becoming an ally. Results suggested that being an ally and developing as an ally are inseparable processes in that being an ally involves continual development and engagement. I describe this process, including how understandings of privilege and oppression develop, the movement from knowledge to action, and the process of taking action towards social justice, below. The findings from this study may serve as a foundation for understanding how various factors related to ally development relate and interact, allowing individuals interested in acting as allies, or facilitating others’ ally development, to be more informed in supporting the process.


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