Faculty Perceptions of Diversity at a Highly Selective Research-Intensive University

Perry, Natalie, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Wathington, Heather, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Although many organizations state a commitment to diversity goals in mission statements and other documents, “imperfect execution” leaves a perceived gap between expressed commitment and actual implementation of policies and programs (Bagati, 2007). The purpose of this phenomenological study is to examine an institution’s commitment to diversity from the perspective of organizational values. Competing Values Framework theory is the theoretical framework that guides this study.

The purpose of the study is twofold: to better understand how members of a university taskforce committed to faculty recruitment and retention perceive the effectiveness of the institution’s diversity efforts, and to better understand how the taskforce works within the university governance structure to address issues of diversity presented by faculty. By using the perceptions of the taskforce members to answer these questions, this study provides a greater understanding of the challenges organizations face while attempting to honor their commitment to diversity.

This study utilizes a qualitative design with informative interviews in order to understand Faculty Retention Taskforce involvement in university life and their perceptions of diversity. The Competing Values Framework (CVF) is the theoretical framework used to guide this study. Because the Faculty Retention Taskforce is comprised of members of the representative body that was responsible for university planning and governance, CVF allows for explorations of the values espoused by that governing body as well as the larger organization, the institution.

Through the analysis of the data, six assertions emerged in response to the overarching research question. This study offers further insight into to the development of initiatives and policies that matched the values of the institution. This study provides a detailed analysis of the institutional context and its implications for the process of change in higher education. The findings of this study suggest feedback loops as effective tools for transformative leaders looking to incorporate innovative practices into an existing hierarchical structure. Through feedback loops that involved research, open communication with administration, and faculty participation, transformative leaders were able to facilitate effective diversity practices and policies at the university.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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