Advancing Equity and Diversity in Higher Education Leadership: A Recurring Conversation

by Marci Rockey / Apr 25, 2017

On April 13, the Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series, co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost and OCCRL, welcomed Dr. Pamela Eddy to present a lecture titled “Developing and Retaining Leadership Talent - Fostering Advancement for Diverse Faculty and Staff.” The timeliness of the topic is evident with the very recent release of the “Pathways to the University Presidency” report from Deloitte University Press and Inside Higher Ed’s 2017 Survey of Community College Presidents. Dr. Eddy, Professor in Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership at the College of William and Mary, shared that from 2001 to 2011 inequities in race/ethnicity went unchanged at the presidential level. Furthermore, while the number of female college presidents in the community college sector has increased, women still represent only one third of community college leaders. This lack in diversity at the top administrative level persists despite increasingly diverse student populations and the implementation of leadership development programs for diverse populations.

Dr. Eddy emphasized that diverse leadership is important not only to advancing issues of equity and social justice, but also to supporting necessary innovation and collaboration in an environment with continued predictions of leadership shortages. When it comes to the leadership pipeline, Dr. Eddy pointed out that a lack of racial diversity among faculty and the gendered hierarchy of institutions contribute to this lack of diverse leadership at the top. Furthermore, she questioned the implication of the increased utilization of “interim” appointments for institutional stability and change efforts.

As a result of her research, Dr. Eddy advocated for new models of leadership that question assumptions about who can lead and where they can lead. She identified a need for being intentional about changing the culture of the presidency and who feels welcomed into it. To illustrate how change can be accomplished, she provided examples of case studies from two different states. Dr. Eddy also advocated for investment in mid-level leaders who may not even perceive themselves as institutional leaders nor recognize their influence on the institutional culture and their ability to be agents of change. As a recent attendee at a symposium on this topic co-facilitated by Dr. Eddy during the Council for the Study of Community Colleges annual conference, I was even further inspired by her talk. If you also find yourself inspired by her research, I encourage you to view the video of Dr. Eddy’s lecture or join me in adding Dr. Eddy’s Community College Leadership: A Multidimensional Model for Leading Change to your summer reading list.

To further explore issues of equity in higher education, join us for the next speaker in the Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series:

  • May 3 - Linda Tillman, University of North Carolina
    Mentoring of Early Career and Faculty of Color and Culturally Appropriate Research Approaches
    • 12:00 p.m. campus lecture, Illini Union, Room 210
    • 3:00 p.m. fireside chat, Education Building