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New Faculty Profile - Eugene Parker

Thursday, February 25, 2016

I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Unlike some “Chicagoans”, who are actually from a suburb of the city or the general metropolitan area, I am from the inner city. After completion of my undergraduate degree, and prior to entering my doctoral degree, I relocated back to the city. During that time, I worked for an urban public institution, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), for nearly a decade. My experiences during this time in Chicago shaped much of my subsequent research and interests.

At the University of Illinois at Chicago, I primarily concentrated on college access for prospective students, largely those from underrepresented and historically marginalized student populations: racial and ethnic minority groups, first generation college students, and students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds. My principal role focused on recruiting, admitting and enrolling students from the inner city and students from diverse backgrounds. My responsibilities centered on creating, implementing and maintaining partnerships with the public schools in the city. In this capacity, I worked with high school staff and counselors to effectively promote access opportunities for inner city Chicago students. Additionally, I worked with community organizations to provide information about college readiness and access. Considering my own background and identity as a first generation and member of an underrepresented minority group, these experiences were particularly valuable to me because they afforded me the opportunity to serve and assist students with similar backgrounds. 

Working and collaborating with diverse student populations in Chicago fueled my passion to become a faculty member and served as a significant motivation for my research interests regarding diversity at colleges and universities and multiculturalism equity and inclusion on campus. Much of my work in my doctoral program focused on the diversity experiences of students and how those experiences influence outcomes such as moral development, leadership and social responsibility.

My dissertation focuses on diversity and leadership in the 21st century. Our nation is experiencing a demographic shift. The proportion of racial minorities will significantly increase during the next several decades. American colleges and universities will similarly experience a demographic shift among its students. Colleges will have to navigate issues of multiculturalism, diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. 

A related significant issue is who will be responsible for the oversight of diversity and furthering diversity goals at institutions of higher education. The chief diversity officer (CDO) is generally the highest-ranking senior administrator who has been charged with attending to diversity related matters on campus. The specific job function of the CDO varies across colleges and universities. Often, they are tasked with advancing the college’s diversity initiatives. Some have compliance and Title IX accountabilities. Others work with faculty issues, such as diversity hiring and promotion and tenure. My study explored and described the emergence of the chief diversity office, present day conceptions of diversity and the association of organizational structure and efficacy of the office. 

First, the study described the formation of the chief diversity office. It answered the question of how and why we establish chief diversity offices at research-intensive universities. Diversity has many meanings in higher education. The study also explained how leaders at universities currently conceptualize diversity. Once chief diversity offices are formed, there is little consistency at colleges and universities regarding the position of the office/unit in the organizational hierarchy. So, finally, my study investigated how organizational positioning and structure influence the capacity for chief diversity offices to realize their diversity goals.

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