Structuring Diversity: Chief Diversity Offices as Structural Responses to a Cultural Issue

Eugene T. Parker
Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education  •  Volume 4  •  2019  •  pp. 263-277

Higher education has faced increasing perceptions, mainly by students, of unwelcoming campus racial and diversity climates. As a result, during the past decade, there has been a peak in the inaugurations of chief diversity officers. Yet, little is known about how these offices are established.

This study explores and describes the emergence of the chief diversity office at two research-intensive universities.

This study utilizes a qualitative case study to answer the research questions.

The study provides new knowledge about the impetuses that prompt the formation of chief diversity officers. Further, the findings inform the higher education community about the establishment of chief diversity offices at two universities that might help institutions inaugurate new offices.

Findings illustrated that the formation of the chief diversity office at these research universities represented structural responses to cultural issues on campus.

A recommendation for practitioners is to consider a thorough assessment of the campus climate as a means to prompt the formation of a chief diversity office. The structural attributes of the realized unit should be directly associated with the specific context of the respective campus.

Recommendations for researchers are to empirically address social identity when examining chief diversity officers and to further investigate job and work attitudes, such as organizational commitment or burnout, in these leaders.

Present day colleges and universities are the most diverse in history. Considering changing demographics, it is important to understand how institutions are structurally responding to diversity on campus.

Future research might investigate the nuanced ways in which institutions of higher education are inaugurating new offices and appointing new diversity leaders. Considering the distinct aspects of diversity, scholars might explore the salient skills or relevant background experiences that colleges and universities are seeking in these new leaders.

diversity, campus climate, race, CDO, leadership, higher education, equity, inclusion
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