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Strategic Diversity Leadership: Inspiring Change and Transformation in the Academy

Damon A. Williams
Publication Date:
Stylus Publishing, LLC
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A conceptual and evidence-based framework for addressing diversity, and blueprint for rethinking institutional strategies and organizational structures for effective implementation

“The book is a moral compass for how we are to proceed in the 21st century, necessitating that we take risks into uncharted territory. With Williams as our guide, the odds are pretty good we will get where he wants us to go.”—William G. Tierney, University Professor & Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education, & Director of the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis, at the University of Southern California

"Williams provides a wealth of practical guidance for leaders who see the need to move beyond episodic diversity interventions toward comprehensive institutional engagement and change. I warmly recommend this exceptionally useful book for any educational institution that already sees diversity as an educational value and now wants to reach toward the next and more challenging level of making excellence inclusive."—Carol Schneider, President, Association of American Colleges and Universities

“This is a president’s ‘how to’ guide for making excellence inclusive in the academy in the 21st century. It is one of the most significant books ever published on diversity in the academy, and one that will remain pivotal reading for years to come."—Ronald A. Crutcher, President, Wheaton College (MA)

"Williams melds a deep understanding of diversity with a sophisticated understanding of the nuances of leadership and organizational change. He delivers a blueprint of approaches to activating diversity plans, creating meaningful chief diversity officer roles, fostering accountability, and avoiding the pitfalls of leading change efforts on college and university campuses. This is an important book, which harnesses research and theory to lead real world change."—Molly Corbett, President, American Council of Education

There is a growing recognition, particularly in business and the military, that we have to educate and develop the capacities of our citizens from all levels of society and all demographic and social groups to live fulfilling lives in an inter-connected globe.

For higher education that means not only increasing the numbers of diverse students, faculty, and staff, but simultaneously pursuing excellence in student learning and development, as well as through research and scholarship – in other words pursuing what this book defines as strategic diversity leadership. The aim is to create systems that enable every student, faculty, and staff member to thrive and achieve to maximum potential within a diversity framework.

This book is written from the perspective that diversity work is best approached as an intellectual endeavor with a pragmatic focus on achieving results that takes an evidence-based approach to operationalizing diversity.

It offers an overarching conceptual framework for pursuing diversity in a national and international context; delineates and describes the competencies, knowledge and skills needed to take effective leadership in matters of diversity; offers new data about related practices in higher education; and presents and evaluates a range of strategies, organizational structures and models drawn from institutions of all types and sizes.


Damon A. Williams is the Associate Vice Chancellor, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a clinical member of the faculty in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. He leads a dedicated CDO division and has worked with over 200 organizations interested in developing cutting-edge strategic diversity capabilities. His professional focus is in the areas of strategic planning, leadership development, chief diversity officer design, establishing dedicated diversity infrastructures, change management, youth development, program evaluation, and assessing diversity outcomes.
This book was adopted by:
College at Brockport (SUNY)
D'Youville College
Farmingdale State College (SUNY)
Massasoit Community College - Brockton
Northern Kentucky University
San Jose State University
Santa Clara University
Temple University
Temple University - Law
University of Akron
University of Kentucky
University of Louisville
University of Mississippi
University of Mississippi Regional Campuses
University of South Alabama
University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee & New College of Florida
University of Toledo
West Virginia University
West Virginia University Evansdale
Whitworth University
Wright State University

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Table of Contents


William G. Tierney

Strategic Diversity Leadership: Inspiring Change and Transformation in Higher Education


1. Diversity in the New Economy: Navigating the Perfect Storm


2. Toward a Twenty-First Century Definition of Diversity

3. Higher Education Organizational Diversity Models


4. Why Diversity Efforts Fail: The Cheetah and the Wolf

5. The Artful Science of Strategic Diversity Leadership

6. Being Accountable: Building a Strategic Diversity Leadership Scorecard

7. Developing and Implementing Successful Diversity Plans

8. Activating the Diversity Change Journey: A National Portrait of Diversity Capabilities in Higher Education

9. Diversity Committees, Commissions, and Task Forces