Ohio's presidents are much more diverse than anywhere else

Ohio is the exception when it comes to diversity among college presidents: its university presidents defy the standard profile of someone in the role, according to a report by the American Council on Education (ACE).

The report is based on a survey that ACE conducts every four to five years. Over 1,500 college presidents from two- and four-year colleges participated. The survey seeks information on a broad range of topics such as state funding and big-picture issues that presidents want to focus on, but also asks them for personal demographic data.

Most college presidents are men over 60 years of age who have been president for at least seven years, had a traditional path to the presidency via academic affairs, and identify as white, according to Karen Farkas in Cleveland.com.

Related: 7 colleges welcome their first black presidents

But Ohio's colleges and universities tell a different story. According to Farkas, of the 13 public university presidents in the state:

  • Five are women;
  • One is black;
  • One is from India;
  • 10 became presidents within the last three years; and
  • One white male president is only 46 years of age.

The president of a private university in Ohio, Notre Dame College, is a former business executive and entrepreneur, according to Farkas, and did not have a background in academic affairs or higher education administration. 

Only two of Ohio's public universities presidents fit within the profile of the standard college president. One of them, Ronald Berkman of Cleveland State University, is retiring in 2018, Farkas reports. The other, Duane Nellis of Ohio University, was recently appointed and has served as president of both Texas Tech University and University of Idaho.

Given the increase in diversity among college students and the labor force, college presidents who fit the traditional description might not satisfy students' desire for a leader who understands their experiences, writes Shalina Chatlani in Education Dive. Students have expressed a strong desire for diversity and inclusiveness on campus through demonstrations and protests over the years. According to Chatlani, as more presidents reach retirement age,  we may see increasingly diverse newcomers joining the presidency (ACE release, accessed 6/26; Chatlani, Education Dive, 6/22; Farkas, Cleveland.com, 6/21).

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