Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Leadership and Policies

First Advisor

Katherine Chaddock


In spite of the myriad initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines at colleges and universities across the country and the increased funding for these types of initiatives, colleges and universities have experienced modest gains and, in some cases, slight declines in the graduation rates of women and underrepresented minorities (URMs). In addressing this issue, some institutions rely on traditional or “deficit” approaches that place primary responsibility on students for their success in the STEM fields. A growing number of institutions, however, embrace the concept of inclusive excellence, which is an assumption that underrepresented students can and will rise to high expectations provided institutions have a better understanding of and commitment to fostering the conditions in which these students thrive. Although there is much in the literature about successful programs and initiatives in the STEM disciplines that are aligned with the concept of inclusive excellence, there is little information about the organizational change processes that ensure that these initiatives are implemented on a scale large enough to significantly impact the enrollment and graduation rates of women and URMs.

This study addressed the void in the literature through a multiple case study of three departments/schools at elite Predominantly White Institutions that have had success with enrolling and graduating women and underrepresented minorities (URMs) at rates above the national average – the computer science department at Harvey Mudd College, the physics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas Austin. Employing qualitative content analysis as the methodology, 246 documents from these institutions were analyzed both deductively with the Transformational Change Model for Inclusive Excellence as a framework and inductively to determine the strategies that advanced initiatives in the model departments and school.

Analysis revealed that each department/school utilized, to some degree, strategies from the framework, including understanding and articulating the rationale for change, securing senior administrator buy-in, collaborating across multiple departments and disciplines, providing professional development for those associated with initiatives, focusing attention on the environment for underrepresented students, developing a vision for the department/school that was flexible and modified when needed, engaging in high impact and visible actions that were staged over time, and conducting comprehensive assessment and evaluation. Beyond the framework, analysis revealed that campus culture, external funding, and selective admissions also played a role in advancing initiatives on a large scale, as did other factors that were specific to each institution.