Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Cheryl A. Getz, EdD, Chair; Lea A. Hubbard, PhD, Member; Frank Harris III, EdD, Member


administrators, campus culture, case study, Chief Diversity Officers--CDO, faith-based universities, higher education, institutionalized diversity and inclusion, Leadership studies, minority & ethnic groups, outcome measures, public research universities, qualitative, relationship building


Due to demographic shifts and the changing political and economic landscape, universities are experiencing increased demands to produce a culturally competent and well-trained globally minded workforce. To address these demands in a systematic manner, several universities have created a new senior level administrative position to direct campus diversity and inclusion efforts. This position known universally in academia as the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) is responsible for institutionalizing diversity and inclusion so that diversity moves from the margins of the university to the center and becomes a standard way of thinking and doing business. Given this high-level executive leadership design, the functions and duties of the CDO are significant. A CDO must be the advocate and leader for sustained institutional change that supports diversity and inclusion campus-wide. Despite the rise of these new positions, little empirical evidence exists about the role CDOs play in making campuses more diverse, inclusive, and equitable places to study, live, work, and teach. This multiple case qualitative study examines three exemplar universities (a private faith-based West Coast institution, a large Midwestern public research university, and a large Southern public research university) who have a CDO that has experienced success at institutionalizing diversity and inclusion into the greater campus culture. Three research questions guided this study: (a) What role do CDOs play in institutionalizing diversity and inclusion in US universities; (b) How do the universities know they have institutionalized diversity and inclusion? What are their outcome measures and who is involved in these change efforts; and (c) What key strategies contribute to successful institutional efforts to sustain diversity and inclusion? What is the role of the CDO in these efforts? This study suggests that universities can institutionalize diversity and inclusion with a CDO who is committed to leading change through a systemic, relational, and integrated approach. Through intentional efforts that include relationship building, trust, and patience for a lengthy transformational change process, CDOs can help institutionalize diversity and inclusion so that it is a sustainable and permanent condition that positively affects the way a university functions and makes decisions.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies