Chief diversity officers (CDOs) carry the monumental responsibility of creating meaningful and sustained structural and cultural change at an institution. For CDOs to be effective, they must have direct access to executive leadership (e.g., president), a scaffold of institutional supports, and appropriate staff and financial resources. But there is not one single “best” chief diversity officer model (e.g., scope of responsibilities, reporting structure) for two reasons:
- The optimal CDO model depends on institutional factors. Examples of factors include institution type, mission, historical legacy, current status quo, and resources. These factors, for example, may impact the extent of centralization versus decentralization of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
- We do not have long-term outcomes data to assess the effectiveness of different CDO models. At many institutions, the CDO role is an inaugural position. For example, a landmark study in 2013 found that nearly three-quarters (i.e., 72 percent) of CDOs in higher ed were newly created positions.
Innovation profile: Colorado College
Last summer, Colorado College launched a tri-part CDO model that represents a notable alternative to the common single-CDO approach. At Colorado College, three individuals will lead antiracism efforts across academic affairs, student affairs, and staff. The CDOs report to the dean of faculty, vice president for student life, and senior vice president for finance and administration, respectively. The three leaders are referred to as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team or by their individual titles.
This model caught our eye because deviation from the single-CDO approach is uncommon in higher ed. In our recent review of 58 CDO organizational charts, we found that all 41 institutions that currently employ a CDO appear to use a single-CDO approach. (Our sample represents a relatively even spread of size, institution control, and geographic location.)
Five benefits of the college’s tri-part CDO model
Colorado College now has all three of these leaders in place and has experienced early success as the three individuals begin their work.
Read on for a brief overview of each role.
- Partners with faculty to implement antiracist curricular and co-curricular activities, develop inclusive pedagogies, and improve classroom climate;
- Creates and implements recruiting and hiring policies to diversify faculty;
- Oversees professional development opportunities for faculty through all stages of their career.
Reports to: Dean of faculty
- Works with student leaders and other campus constituents to develop, deliver, and assess student-directed programming;
- Oversees the budget and staff of the college center for DEI.
Reports to: Vice president for student life/dean of students.
- Implements diverse and inclusive practices in staff recruiting, hiring, and retention;
- Facilitates DEI trainings and programming for staff;
- Manages responses to workplace bias incidents.
Reports to: Senior vice president for finance and administration
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