Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Tara L. Parker

Second Advisor

Ray Franke

Third Advisor

Laura I. Rendón


Despite the increase of multicultural celebrations on college campuses, racial tensions continue to persist, prompting the creation of Chief Multicultural Officer (CMO) positions at more than one hundred institutions across the country. Much of the burgeoning scholarship around CMOs and chief diversity officers has primarily focused on role definitions, professional standards, organizational structures, the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience, as well as desired leadership styles. Little to no research has examined how CMOs address race and racism on college campuses, a phenomenon that often serves as the impetus for their positions.

Having studied three CMOs at private institutions in the northeast, this qualitative, multi-case study offers a new focus in the growing CMO literature. Using Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Multicultural Organizational Development Theory (MCOD), four themes emerged: misalignments between stated commitments and reality; structural and cultural barriers; discomfort in addressing race-related issues; and successful CMO strategies. These findings add to the literature by highlighting critical challenges experienced by CMOs and highlights the need for greater authority and oversight of institutional operations. If higher education leaders are serious about fostering more racially inclusive and welcoming environments, they must fully own campus racial problems and appropriately align the CMO role and responsibilities with institutional strategic plans and efforts. The study concludes with specific recommendations for institutional policy and practice.


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