Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Bridging the Research-Practice Gap

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Bridging the Research-Practice Gap

Article excerpt

There is a cultural divide between diversity practitioners and academic researchers - ironic, given our professional focus on cultural divides. This is unfortunate. It decreases the usefulness of research and the effectiveness of practice. The purpose of this column will be to bridge the gap between diversity researchers (especially academics) and practitioners. While the research-practice gap is real and is substantial, we hasten to add that it is not universal. Some researchers also consult and some practitioners have relevant academic training. Unfortunately, these are the exceptions.

To bridge the research-practice gap, practitioners and academics must talk to one another. So that's what we'll be doing in this column. David is the academic, with a doctorate in social psychology and postdoctoral training in industrial-organizational psychology. He is a professor of management at George Mason University, where he teaches courses on organizational diversity. David is a nationally recognized fi gure, with more than three dozen published articles and 60 conference presentations under his belt. He is also the 2010-2011 chairman of the 1,200-member Gender and Diversity in Organizations division of the Academy of Management.

Renée, holding an MBA in international fi nance and a doctorate in organizational development, is primarily a practitioner. She worked for 17 years as an international banker and in 1996 was detailed to Bank of America's diversity offi ce. She launched Bank of America's international diversity efforts in the late 1990s. Her focus on the linkage between leadership, diversity and performance has led her to do consulting work with both the private and public sectors. She currently consults primarily with the military and intelligence communities as well as other federal agencies and private-sector companies.

So there we are. Two different people. Two very different life paths, but one goal - to fi nd commonalities. But before we can recognize those commonalities, we have to understand the differences between academics and practitioners. Here are four major ones:

Different Education : Academics are educated in doctoral programs that emphasize theory and research. The training of practitioners is much more diverse - some receive doctoral training while others have no research background. Some have never even been exposed to diversity studies. Honestly, anyone can hang out their shingle as a diversity professional because there are neither standard qualifi cations nor any requirement that a practitioner understand the current body of knowledge. …

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