September 2016 marked the start for research seeking truth about lived experiences of chief diversity officers (CDOs) in higher education. Sponsored by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, researchers at CoopLew, LLC released findings from data compiled over three months at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) in May 2017. An overarching implication from the research was that CDO’s harbor many untold and unseen perspectives about their work. These perspectives are often permeated by receptions they encounter after being hired, alternative presidential agendas, and misconceptions about the role CDO’s should play toward institutional transformation. However, “despite adversities, CDO’s persist to make gains in skill expansion, resource allocation, status, and centrality to the academy’s transformation,” says Dr. Ken Coopwood, one author of the CoopLew research.
The findings indicate that in higher education, the profession of CDO is facing a tremendous gap in bona fide talent for the work. “On one hand, Baby Boomer CDOs are set to retire in the next 10-15 years and on the other hand, the pipeline of Millennial CDOs is sparse, creating the need for serious attention to be paid to developing the next generation of leaders,” Dr. William Lewis, another author of the CoopLew study, told INSIGHT.