Diversity is becoming an industry within higher education. Would you be surprised to learn that many ADOs are former community organizers?

Inside Higher Ed reports:

Academic Diversity Officers

You’ve heard of chief diversity officers, but what about academic diversity officers? Four years into its innovative plan to put diversity officers into every academic and administrative unit, to carry out program-specific diversity plans, the University of Michigan has some thoughts.

More precisely, the campus’s National Center for Institutional Diversity just published a report on the experiences of these academic diversity officers, or ADOs. Beyond making various recommendations for academic deans and academic diversity officers, the report finds that ADOs require special skills.

ADOs in the study also had a wide variety of personal and professional experiences, with some common threads. Most had experience in faculty work, student affairs, general administration or community organizing.

Based on their backgrounds, ADOs tended to draw on different “logics,” according to the report. Community organizers-turned-ADOs generally valued accountability and even some tension to create diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) change, and used language that was “value laden and personal.” Faculty ADOs in the sample, meanwhile, worked on issues of representation, such as faculty and student recruitment and retention, and inclusive pedagogical training. They prioritized data collection and “uniquely understood from firsthand experience the difficulty of encouraging behavioral change due to academic reward structures.”

ADOs from general administration had “latent qualities about methodically addressing issues through structure, processes and rules.” The inherent risk in that way of thinking, however, is not thinking outside conventional systems, according to the report. Student affairs-minded ADOs made personal connections and focused on promoting inclusive communities.


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