Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Education, Ed.D.


College of Education



First Advisor

Chad Becker, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Consuella Lewis, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kallen Dace, Ed.D.


The purpose of this phenomenological study is to explore the experiences of chief diversity officers (CDOs) with leading through ambiguity in their roles. It is critical to provide support and structure to senior-level administrators leading diversity efforts at colleges and universities. “Ambiguity,” for the purposes of my study and main research question, relates to a CDO’s experience with an ill-defined organizational structure that governs their role. A qualitative phenomenological study was employed to document the experiences of 14 CDOs in higher education. Open-ended interviews facilitated capturing the essence of the lived experiences of CDOs leading despite the ambiguity in their roles. The data analysis for this study was accomplished by utilizing the method of Moustakas (1994) which helped generate four themes: (a) ambiguity in the CDO position, (b) resources necessary for success in the CDO position, (c) resistance on campus toward the CDO position, and (d) personal characteristics that facilitate success in the CDO position. Themes identified in this study could better equip higher education presidents, current CDOs, and aspiring CDOs to better understand the role.