“It’s a sea-change”: Understanding the role the racial and socio-political climate play on the role-shift of the American college presidency

Tenisha Tevis


This inquiry is part of a larger study focused on whether white male presidents in higher education can respond to racism. In the initial study, the author concluded that while presidents were responsive, their responses were not void of privilege, and highlighted the need to further address white Fragility amongst this group. In an effort to advance our understanding of the American college presidency, particularly how the racial and socio-political climate has shaped their leadership, in the current study, the author analyzed data using the perspective offered by the presidents – higher education is in a sea-change, which was also a finding, as well as specific facets of Astin and Astin’ (2000) and Buller’s (2015) respective frames of change. The analysis yielded the importance of naming that higher education is in a sea-change, grappled with the reality of power within the presidency, and articulated the value of being willing over being ready to incite change. In light of these findings, these leaders recognized that not only is higher education due for a change, but so is the postsecondary presidency. Such an understanding expands both the organizational leadership and diversity in higher education literature, respectively. 


Postsecondary President; Sea-change; Racism; Diversity; Power; Willingness

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.29.5153

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