Leading with Diversity

Tufts master’s program in diversity and inclusion leadership addresses a growing need for expertise in the field

Silas Pinto talking to a class at Tufts

People who can manage and lead diverse and inclusive organizations have never been more in demand. According to Indeed, a jobs search website, between 2017 and 2018 postings for diversity and inclusion positions increased by nearly 20 percent.

That rise in opportunities recently prompted Tufts to launch a new graduate degree, the Master of Arts in Diversity and Inclusion Leadership. Last year the program welcomed part-time students, and its first cohort of full-time students began the program this fall.

The interdisciplinary program draws on the strengths of faculty from four departments—Education, Psychology, the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, and Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy, said Robert Cook, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

“At Tufts, we have a golden opportunity to be part of the growth of this important field,” he said. “Our faculty bring practical knowledge as well as critical theory and historical frameworks to the classroom, so our students develop the analytic skills they need, while they also understand what it takes to be a leader.”

Both skills are vital, he said, given the relative newness of a profession that seeks to establish diversity, equity, and inclusivity in the workplace.

“Diversity officers are often change agents,” he said, and successful outcomes include knowing how to measure an organization’s climate and how to assess and implement techniques that will create inclusive communities where everyone feels welcome and valued.

“Part of training that we’re offering is how to mediate difficult situations and how to move whole organizations to a better place, and that’s not easy,” he said. “Identity issues in general need to be considered with sensitivity. Our goal is to give graduates a broad framework for understanding the full scope of what identity means.”

The new degree program requires thirty credit hours, or ten courses: six from core areas and two from specialty areas, followed by a two-credit capstone experience that can be a thesis, internship, or civic engagement project.

The program comes at a time of expanding job opportunities for professionals in positions such as chief diversity officer. Tufts, for instance, is a member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), established in 2006, which published established standards of professional practice in 2014. (Read a profile of Tufts’ chief diversity officers.)

Diversity officers can have an influential role, according to NADOHE, in areas such as recruitment and retention, curriculum and instruction, leadership development, external relations, and strategic planning.

Whether at a university or a business, shaping work forces that are both diverse and inclusive is now considered a vital investment, said Cook.

“Empirical research clearly shows is that the more diverse perspectives you have in the room, the better kinds of decisions that are eventually made,” he said. “Companies that are looking to be innovative, effective, and productive recognize that they need those different experiences and perspectives to be at the top of their game.”

Just as the Tufts curriculum now responds to “the reality of the world,” it will continue to adapt and evolve, Cook said.

“The important thing is that we have created something that is special,” he said. “It is a degree that has career potential, but it’s also going to play a large role in changing society. Tufts can be very proud of that.”

Laura Ferguson can be reached at laura.ferguson@tufts.edu.

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