Engaging, Retaining, and Advancing African Americans in Executive-Level Positions: A Descriptive and Trend Analysis of Academic Administrators in Higher and Postsecondary Education*

By Jackson, Jerlando F. L. | The Journal of Negro Education, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Engaging, Retaining, and Advancing African Americans in Executive-Level Positions: A Descriptive and Trend Analysis of Academic Administrators in Higher and Postsecondary Education*


Jackson, Jerlando F. L., The Journal of Negro Education


The higher and postsecondary education research literature is replete with considerations of affirmative action and diversity initiatives for African Americans at colleges and universities. However, there have been few statistical analyses with regard to the gains made by African Americans in executive-level administrative positions. To address the void, this study examined two data collection cycles of the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (1993 and 1999) to perform descriptive and trend analysis of African Americans holding academic administrative positions that traditionally lead to the college presidency.

The study of African Americans in college and university administration has traditionally focused on lower to mid-level positions (Ball, 1995; Bower, 1996; Mosley, 1980). There is, for example, a rich literature examining the distribution of African Americans in diversity-related positions (Abney & Richey, 1991; Marcus, 2000; Smith, 1993). More specifically, this literature-base is especially situated within student affairs and student personnel research (Brown & Globetti, 1991; Holmes, 2003; Flowers, 2003; Reason, 2003; Watson, 2001). For the most part, this research has been motivated out of long standing concerns about equity and, more recently, by concerns about the representation of African Americans in executive-level administrative positions that traditionally lead to the college presidency (Harvey, 1999; Slater, 1995). There is a growing interest, both among scholars and practitioners, in the implications for diversity within the ranks of academic administration (Crase, 1994; Drummond, 1995). Recent internal and external pressures have focused not only on the diversity of academic administrators, but specifically with top-level administration, such as Kellogg Leadership Fellows Program sponsored by National Association for Equal Opportunity (Chenoweth, 1998; Harvey, 2001; Hollis, 1999; Wilson, 1996).

From an empirical perspective, little is known about what happens to African American administrators once they reach executive-level administrative positions.1 Yet, these position allocation decisions can be as important to the pursuit of equity and administrative diversity as the more thoroughly studied positions at the lower to mid-level (Davis, 1994; Harvey, 1999; Wilson, 1989). In part, this gap in the research base stems from data limitations (Jackson, 2001), and in part, the gap is due to the nascent nature and presence of African Americans in executive-level administrative positions in higher and postsecondary education (Harvey, 2001). Needless to say, this gap in the research literature is a significant challenge for the field of higher and postsecondary education, not the least since diversity at all levels of the educational system is needed in order to meet the needs of the multicultural student population served (Watson et al., 2002; Wilson, 1989).

Fortunately, data based reports are available to monitor to some degree the progress of African Americans in executive-level administrative positions. The American Council on Education (ACE) has conducted a college president study series since 1986 that describes the backgrounds, career paths, and experiences at colleges and universities. Moreover, the Office of Minorities in Higher Education within ACE produces an annual status report on minorities in higher education that provides a descriptive analysis of American college presidents by race. Eikewise, the College and University Personnel Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) administer annually an administrative compensation survey that provides insights into the distribution by race of executive-level administrative positions. In addition, researchers have made important contributions to conceptual or empirical aspects of this evolving program of research (Lindsay, 1999; Ramey, 1995; Rolle, Davies, & Banning, 2000; Williams, 1989; Wilson, 1989).

How can we ensure that the nation's colleges and universities are staffed by high quality, well-trained African American academic administrators? …

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