Ohio stands as a beacon of diversity in the presidency
- Across all higher education institutions, the office of the president is predominantly held by a white man over the age of 60, who has been holding the position for several years and has a doctoral degree, according to the latest ACE report. However, Ohio does not fall within this trend, with only two out of its 13 public college presidents fitting the national profile, and one of them, Ronald Berkman, is retiring next year.
- The state hired 10 new presidents over the last three years — five women, a black man, an Indian man, and white men under the age of 46. And, one of the colleges even hired a president outside academia, reports Cleveland.com.
- Only newly-appointed Ohio University President Duane Nellis, who formerly served as president of Texas Tech University, fits the traditional profile laid out by ACE.
The college presidency is in fact diversifying, but slowly. In the ACE survey, 54% of presidents said they planned to leave their position in five years or less, while in 2006, the average tenure was around 8.5 years. And now, older presidents are reaching retirement age, meaning that higher education institutions can start to see an opportunity to look toward more diverse and younger candidates.
Presidential turnover in Ohio has opened the door for the state to do just that. And, Ohio's public colleges appear to be on a much faster trajectory to diversification than others. As more students with varied gender and racial backgrounds start to attend college, the traditional older white male college president may not be able to offer the leadership voice students seek. Research has shown students of color thrive when there are faculty members of color on campus, and additional research reveals having presidents of color encourages more diverse faculty hires and helps open the door to more leadership positions for those faculty once they arrive on campus.
Not only that, but a string of race-related campus protests over the last few years — notably the University of Missouri which has seen a 35% enrollment drop since 2015 — reflects how students are valuing inclusiveness in all facets of campus life.
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