Leadership through shared equity | @the U


Members of the University of Utah community enter the third year of our commitment to the community together Creation and growth of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) on our campus. In the first two years, the university has committed to supporting new EDI initiatives and providing them with resources that are beyond those integrated into our four pillars Strategy update Process. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion have built a strong foundation for this work, and we will continue to highlight the University of Utah as a leader in higher education and our state by removing systemic barriers to equal opportunity so that all students and communities can thrive.

Research and experience show us that changing historical practices and institutional cultures or norms is not easy, even if those changes benefit everyone. We also know that typical diversity approaches on campus or in our organizations have not worked to address fundamentally unfair practices and policies. These persistent problems will not be solved by taking part in a two-hour “diversity training” (even if it might be helpful). Indeed with the New leadership academy, we believe that all of the challenges and opportunities that leaders face are related to equity, diversity or inclusion. Therefore, leadership at all levels must be equipped with the knowledge, tools and courage to lead fairly.

Leaders are of paramount importance to making significant advances on justice issues – but if we rely on (or wait for) individual leaders to act, we will not lead to justice. Creating change on this scale is not just the work of justice, diversity and inclusion. EDI sets the strategic vision, but it requires the courage and commitment of many leaders with diverse talents and strengths united in their vision to create a fairer university environment. What could such a distributed but collaborative leadership look like?

The American Council on Education (ACE) recently published a report Definition of Shared Equity Leadership (SEL) as a documented success model for equity in an entire university community. In the SEL model, leadership is shared by a number of campus representatives who have both formal and informal leadership roles.

SEL consists of three main elements: “1) Individuals who are a type of personal journey to critical awareness or built critical awareness and cemented their commitment to justice; 2) values shared by members of the executive team or group; and 3) a lot of Practices methods exercises that leaders continually adopt that enable them to share leadership and create more equitable and equitable conditions on their campus ”(Kezar, Holcombe, Vigil, & Dizon, 2021, p. 6).

The three elements of SEL are visually represented in the following graphic:

Source / Photo Credit: American Council on Education, University of Southern California; Pullia’s Center for Higher Education

Mobilizing committed individuals from across campus collectively centers justice so that attention is directed to addressing unjust practices and systemic barriers that exist on campus and replacing them with innovative and equitable practices or guidelines. The recently announced EDI strategy council will exemplify the leadership of shared equity at the University of Utah. Your goals include identifying, recommending, and creating accountability for equity on campus.

If at this point you are not patting on the back to join the EDI Strategy Council, I would like to remind you that we must continue to move beyond hierarchical leadership – especially when it comes to equity work. Justice, diversity and inclusion set the tone and offer resources and opportunities for engagement beyond the council – and that too is a shared gender equality leadership.


About Ellen Lewandowski

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