The Power and Potential of Diversity and Inclusion

March 2017

Today’s student body represents a vast spectrum of backgrounds, values and beliefs—which presents a unique set of challenges for leaders striving to meet changing student needs.


Demographic shifts have dramatically altered the composition of the student population, bringing to the fore issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion. To help campus leaders navigate this terrain, this paper presents insights from the 2016 TIAA Institute Higher Education Leadership Conference, which included a panel on The Power and Potential of Diversity and Inclusion. The topic of diversity, in fact, permeated the gathering, as it touches on nearly all aspects of the work of higher education leaders. Beyond offering insights from the conference, the paper also provides guidance on implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, protecting free speech on campus and finding relevant data sources.

Key Insights
Higher education leaders need to be “culturally competent,” demonstrating sensitivity to individual differences and feeling comfortable guiding purposeful conversations dealing with race and ethnicity.
Colleges and universities must move beyond simply nurturing an inclusive environment and take steps to actively support the needs of diverse students.
Women and underrepresented minorities make up a larger share of U.S. faculty today, but they still lag white men in full-time tenured positions.

The findings in this paper are based on transcripts of presentations and discussions at the 2016 TIAA Institute Higher Education Leadership Conference. The author also took extensive notes during the conference and reviewed relevant literature on promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.