Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Timothy R. Kuhn

Second Advisor

Lawrence R. Frey

Third Advisor

Michele Moses

Fourth Advisor

Karen L. Ashcraft

Fifth Advisor

Brenda J. Allen


This research focused on institutional framings of diversity in mission statements and communicative practices of chief diversity officers (CDOs) in U.S. institutions of higher education. Grounded in applied communication scholarship, this project investigated how CDOs employ communicative practices in formal and informal settings to inform institutional policies and practices related to diversity and inclusion. To document dominant framings of diversity used by campus leaders, a content analysis of institutional mission and diversity statements (N = 50) was conducted. The findings showed that diversity is framed in those statements as inclusive excellence, social justice, and required legally. To explore the connection between those framings and CDOs’ communicative practices related to institutional diversity work, in-depth interviews (N = 25) were conducted with CDOs. Interviewees provided examples of how CDOs employ communicative practices in formal communication settings through audience analysis, personal distancing, persuasive storytelling, and reflexive questioning. Additionally, CDOs used informal micropractices of collaboration and relationship building, identity work, and coping with microaggressions to garner campus support and to gain allies for their campus diversity and inclusion efforts. The contributions of these findings to applied communication scholarship are discussed with regard to new concepts that are offered for understanding and improving CDOs’ communication to promote greater equity and inclusion in higher education.