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The average demographic of a higher education president is a white male in his early 60s and presidential tenure is getting shorter. In addition, the representation of women in the president's role is less than one-third and minorities comprise less than 20%. There are two primary career paths to the higher education presidency. The traditional career path to the higher education presidency culminates in serving as the chief academic officer before assuming the presidency. The nontraditional career path to the higher education presidency does not include serving in the role of chief academic officer. Within the past 10 years, nine former chief diversity officers (CDOs) were appointed presidents. Given impending retirements and the need to diversify the presidency, alternative career paths to the presidency must be explored. The purpose of this phenomenological research study is to investigate the workplace experiences that prepared CDOs for the position of higher education president. Using the lens of Billett's (2011) workplace learning curriculum, this study identified the individual workplace learning activities and learning activities that required the expertise of others that prepared CDOs for a higher education presidency. The CDO position is one pathway that provides valuable preparation for the presidency. The individual activities that prepared the CDOs for higher education president are participation in diversity program management, providing visibility across the institution, communication training, implementing hiring practices that lead to creating diverse teams, and Title IX management. The activities that required the expertise of others that prepared the CDOs for the role of higher education president are legal/human resources experience, committee participation, cabinet participation, professional association participation, being mentored, and being supervised by the president. Framing the CDO as a pathway to the presidency will lead to an increase in minority and women presidents. In addition, CDOs that aspire to the presidency can use this study as a roadmap to prepare for the presidency.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
26 Jan 2023
501 kB



  • Subject
    • Education

  • Committee member
    • James F. Conneely

    • Sylvia R. Carey-Buter

  • Thesis grantor
    • University of North Georgia

  • Advisor
    • Katherine Rose Adams

  • Department
    • Social Foundations Leadership Education

  • Date submitted

    26 January 2023

  • Qualification name

    Ed.D - Higher Education Leadership & Practice

  • Qualification level
    • Doctoral

  • Keywords