Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

Jennifer A. Morrow

Committee Members

Gary Skolits, Mitsunori Misawa, Sharon Jean-Philippe


To combat barriers to success and foster student achievement and retention of underrepresented minority (URM) students, institutions have incorporated various academic enrichment and student engagement activities to address the campus climate through diversity support offices on campus. In addition to creating and expanding Academic Diversity Officer (ADO) roles, many institutions have begun to enact diversity strategic plans as “the most effective instrument for facilitating long-lasting systemic change on college campuses” (Henderson, 2020). A pending need exists to reveal how leaders in higher education are creating inclusive campuses and the threshold for capacity building regarding diversity efforts (Henderson, 2020; McRae-Yates, 2009; Rubin, 2011).

The purpose of this exploratory qualitative case study was to seek a better understanding of 1) how academic diversity officers define diversity, 2) how they manage their institutional role to promote student success, and 3) how they work collaboratively with other academic and student support offices at a large public university in the southern United States.

Utilizing Systems Thinking Leadership framework, ADO’s definitions of diversity, diversity values, and overall role goals were in alignment (discovery); relationships exist among the ADOs at the institution and ADOs have a well-connected system with regular meetings among other diversity staff at the institution, led by an administrative campus unit diversity officer (framing); and diversity staff meetings assist in collaboration and partnership among ADOs who participate regularly (action). One strategy for increasing faculty and administrative involvement is for academic units and ADOs to encourage faculty to include diversity, equity, and inclusion into their research, teaching, and grant submissions. As ADOs continue their diversity work, it is imperative that the institution finds value in diversity and makes diversity an integral part of their mission, research, and teaching.

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