Executive Summary


A Changing World Calling for New Leaders

Leadership and Diversity

Guiding Framework

Organization of Monograph

Contributions of Monograph

Defining Leadership Language and Guiding Models

Distinguishing Leader and Leadership

Distinguishing Leader and Leadership Development

The Individual: Leader-Based Models

The Process: Leadership-Based Models

Diverse Student Identity and Capacity Development

Student Identity and Capacity Development

Diverse Student Identity Development

Diverse Student Leader Identity

Diverse Student Leader Capacity

Environment Matters

National Context

Institutional Context

Curricular and Cocurricular Context

Exemplary Programs and Characteristics of Effective Practices

Exemplary Programs

Characteristics of Effective Practices

Guiding Questions for Effective Programming

Implications for Policy, Practice, and Future Research

Policy Implications

Practical Implications

Contributions to Future Research



Name Index

Subject Index

About the Authors


Advisory Board


The ASHE Higher Education Report Series is sponsored by the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), which provides an editorial advisory board of ASHE members.

Ben Baez
Florida International University
Kevin Kinser
SUNY – Albany
Amy Bergerson
University of Utah
Dina Maramba
Binghamton University
Edna Chun
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Robert Palmer
Binghamton University
Susan K. Gardner
University of Maine
Barbara Tobolowsky
University of Texas at Arlington
MaryBeth Gasman
University of Pennsylvania
Susan Twombly
University of Kansas
Karri Holley
University of Alabama
Marybeth Walpole
Rowan University
Adrianna Kezar
University of Southern California
Rachelle Winkle-Wagner
University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Executive Summary

Higher education is tasked with developing the next generation of leaders who will lead our modern society. This modern world experiences constant transformation. Transformation is particularly evident in the context of globalization and dramatic demographic changes. As a result, our society is inexorably becoming more diverse, which in turn presents opportunities as well as challenges. The seemingly intractable inequality in educational and economic attainment for citizens of different racial and ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds is one of these challenges with profound social implications. Institutions of higher education in the United States are traditionally considered both a mirror of our society and a force for social change. Thus, it is not surprising that colleges and universities are expected to play active roles in addressing social issues. Many leading scholars and prominent groups believe in higher education’s role in solving these issues through cultivating students’ leadership capacity to effectively advance the well-being of communities and larger society. Campus administrators and educators are called on to create environments where students will develop their leadership knowledge, skills, and values.

To accept this responsibility fully, universities should accept the vital duty to develop students from diverse backgrounds as leaders. To respond to the complex challenges in our modern world, a specific focus on the intersection of leadership and diversity is critical. Developing the leadership capacities of diverse students not only creates our future national and international leaders, but also responds to the mandates within many institutional missions. The diverse background of college students and the increasing diversity of the United States are important considerations in developing college students into leaders that can make a positive difference. To respond adequately, there is a need to better understand what contributes to undergraduate leadership development; the leadership perspectives of students with diverse backgrounds; and the policies, programs, and practices that are effective in developing all students into future leaders.

How students develop leadership capacity, as well as how institutions measure this outcome, varies greatly upon one’s definition and framing of the concepts. If educators define leadership as the sole activity of positional leaders, they will miss the diverse range of students influencing the campus, community, and global world. The evolution of leadership theories, attention to student outcomes, and increasing demand for effective leaders presents the opportunity to reexamine the policy and practices for cultivating leadership capacity within students of diverse backgrounds to meet the needs of a changing world. The existing literature from the fields of leadership and diversity provides a complex and fascinating picture of leadership development of diverse students on our campuses.

This monograph centers on optimizing collegiate environments to increase diverse students’ capacity to lead. Astin’s (1993) “input-environment-outcome” (I-E-O) college impact model provides a conceptual framework for this report. The I-E-O model holds that precollege inputs and elements of the college environment interact to produce a range of outcomes, specifically students’ characteristics after exposure to college. While there are numerous precollege inputs, precollege experiences, and precollege attitudes, we focus on the demographics and identity of diverse students. We start this monograph with a discussion of the importance of leadership development in undergraduate students, situated in the recurring calls for effective leadership for social change in the contemporary United States. Subsequently, we briefly review theories on effective leadership from a multidisciplinary perspective, focusing specifically on college student leadership development from literature in student development and higher education, as well as other relevant literature. Third, the patterns of undergraduate student leadership development for college students of different backgrounds are described. Finally, programs that can help students develop leadership capacity and analyze the features that make such programs effective are presented. Implications and recommendations for institutional improvement and further research are discussed at the end of the monograph. Special attention to the similarities and differences in student leadership development for students of different backgrounds are focused on throughout this monograph.

The intersection of undergraduate leadership development and the diversity of college students is presented to provide insight on effective programming and intentional interventions to optimize the development of all students’ capacity to lead. Developing students’ identity and capacity to create sustainable solutions to the challenges our communities face is one of the most pressing issues in higher education. Connecting the significant outcomes of leadership and diversity in higher education will enhance colleges’ and universities’ ability to educate leaders prepared to create positive change in local and global communities.


Research on the barriers to access for students from historically underrepresented groups, on the stratification of higher education, and on the inability of institutions to recruit and retain a diverse student body is plentiful. But there is much less research and theory on what happens when these historically underrepresented students do make it on campus. What can institutions that have successfully recruited a diverse pool of students do to enhance their collegiate experience? This monograph, titled Cultivating Leader Identity and Capacity in Students from Diverse Backgrounds, by Kathy L. Guthrie, Tamara Bertrand Jones, Laura Osteen, and Shouping Hu, fills this void. The monograph argues that leadership development on college campuses has too often focused on reaching students who have traditionally been recognized as leaders rather than thinking of leadership more broadly. Further, they argue that students who are from historically underrepresented groups in terms of race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of difference would benefit (as would the institution and society as a whole) if leadership development programs were more intentional about serving a more inclusive group of student leaders.

Drawing on the extensive literature on leadership, much of which has been written from the perspective of business, military, and other formal organizations, combined with research on college student identity, this monograph offers an optimistic, hopeful vision of what could be accomplished by leadership development practitioners on college and university campuses. It also offers concrete, doable, affordable suggestions for ways that campuses can serve a broader group of student leaders who may come from backgrounds reflecting different racial and ethnic, gender, or sexual orientations than the White male leaders often served by traditional leadership programs. Leadership development is a timely and relevant topic in higher education right now. Many campuses have created, or are in the process of creating, enhanced leadership opportunities in their curriculum, extracurriculum and cocurriculum. Faculty and administrators alike, many of whom have very little training or scholarly background in leadership, are engaging in the creation of these programs—some of which now lead to academic credit, minors, certificates, and sometimes even majors. The intention of much of this focus is on preparing students to be leaders on campus as well as leaders when they graduate and join the workforce and larger community. The monograph reinforces the importance of diversifying not just who we envision as a leader but also diversifying the definition of what leadership is.

This monograph draws on the rich literature base on leadership in general and on college students in particular. This monograph offers ideas on how institutions can and should recognize a broad array of individuals as leaders and help them to develop their talents. Indeed, the authors assert that institutions of higher education have a moral responsibility to cultivate leaders and facilitate leadership in all of their students. This approach is refreshing because it stands in contrast to an array of research writings that are very critical of higher education. That is not to say that this monograph does not critically examine the issue—because it does. The authors recognize that expanding how institutions view leadership is complicated by formal and informal structures within the institution and within society and that leadership is complicated by such variables as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. The authors do an admirable job of sorting through these complications and offering suggestions for ways that those who work with student leaders in any capacity can improve their practice.

The monograph will be of interest to anyone interested in leadership programming, diversity in higher education, retention, and other outcomes of college students. Student affairs professionals, especially those working directly with students in a programming or leadership development capacity, will particularly relate to this monograph and learn some best practices to consider implementing. University officials who might not fully understand the importance of student activities, leadership development, and programming will also learn a lot from this monograph. Faculty who are working with leadership programs for academic credit will also find this monograph to be useful. In addition, researchers, scholars, and graduate students interested in either leadership or diversity in higher education will gain insights from this work. Finally, I could see this book used in higher education or student affairs master’s degree programs as a text for a leadership class or a supplemental text for a student affairs administration course.

It is important to note that in the ASHE Higher Education Report Series, we have been intentional about publishing monographs that are focused on different aspects of the diversity puzzle. We are committed to covering these topics because we know that colleges and universities want to do the right thing when it comes to serving a diverse student body, but they do not always know what to do or how to do it. This monograph joins other monographs on this topic and adds an exciting new perspective—how to facilitate leadership development among students who have historically been disenfranchised in higher education. Other relevant monographs are numerous and include the following, which focus on particular groups of students:

Latinos in Higher Education: Creating Conditions for Student Success: AEHE 39:1 by Anne-Marie Nunez and colleagues
Immigrant Students and Higher Education: AEHE 38:6 by Eunyoung Kim and Jeannette Diaz
Postsecondary Education for American Indian and Alaska Natives: Higher Education for Nation Building and Self-Determination: AEHE 37:5 by Bryan Brayboy and colleagues
Stonewall’s Legacy: Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Students in Higher Education: AEHE 37:4 by Susan Marine
Veterans in Higher Education: When Johnny and Jane Come Marching to Campus: AEHE 37:3 by David DiRamio and Kathryn Jarvis
Economically and Educationally Challenged Students in Higher Education: Access to Outcomes: AEHE 33:3 by Marybeth Walpole

In addition, other very relevant monographs include:

Diversity Leadership in Higher Education: AEHE 32:3 by Adalberto Aguirre, Jr., and Ruben Martinez
Rethinking the “L” Word in Higher Education: The Revolution of Research on Leadership: AEHE 31:6 by Adrianna Kezar and colleagues
Engaging Diversity in Undergraduate Classrooms: A Pedagogy for Developing Intercultural Competence: AEHE 38:2 by Amy Lee and colleagues
Theoretical Perspectives on Student Success: Understanding the Contributions of the Disciplines: AEHE 34:1 by Laura Perna and Scott Thomas.

Together, these monographs use existing literature to frame important problems and to offer relevant solutions for institutions of higher education to better serve their student body. This monograph, in particular, will help various institutional constituencies to facilitate leadership development of a diverse array of students and help institutions of higher education better serve the needs of their diverse student bodies.

About the ASHE Higher Education Report Series

Since 1983, the ASHE (formerly ASHE-ERIC) Higher Education Report Series has been providing researchers, scholars, and practitioners with timely and substantive information on the critical issues facing higher education. Each monograph presents a definitive analysis of a higher education problem or issue, based on a thorough synthesis of significant literature and institutional experiences. Topics range from planning to diversity and multiculturalism, to performance indicators, to curricular innovations. The mission of the Series is to link the best of higher education research and practice to inform decision making and policy. The reports connect conventional wisdom with research and are designed to help busy individuals keep up with the higher education literature. Authors are scholars and practitioners in the academic community. Each report includes an executive summary, review of the pertinent literature, descriptions of effective educational practices, and a summary of key issues to keep in mind to improve educational policies and practice.

The Series is one of the most peer reviewed in higher education. A National Advisory Board made up of ASHE members reviews proposals. A National Review Board of ASHE scholars and practitioners reviews completed manuscripts. Six monographs are published each year and they are approximately 144 pages in length. The reports are widely disseminated through Jossey-Bass and John Wiley & Sons, and they are available online to subscribing institutions through Wiley Online Library (

Call for Proposals

The ASHE Higher Education Report Series is actively looking for proposals. We encourage you to contact one of the editors, Dr. Kelly Ward ( or Dr. Lisa Wolf-Wendel (, with your ideas.

Recent Titles

Volume 39 ASHE Higher Education Report

1. Latinos in Higher Education and Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Creating Conditions for Success
Anne-Marie Núñez, Richard E. Hoover, Kellie Pickett, A. Christine Stuart-Carruthers, and Maria Vázquez
2. Performance Funding for Higher Education: What Are the Mechanisms? What Are the Impacts?
Kevin J. Dougherty and Vikash Reddy
3. Understanding Institutional Diversity in American Higher Education
Michael S. Harris

Volume 38 ASHE Higher Education Report

1. Creating a Tipping Point: Strategic Human Resources in Higher Education
Alvin Evans and Edna Chun
2. Engaging Diversity in Undergraduate Classrooms: A Pedagogy for Developing Intercultural Competence
Amy Lee, Robert Poch, Marta Shaw, and Rhiannon D. Williams
3. Assessing Meaning Making and Self-Authorship: Theory, Research, and Application
Marcia B. Baxter Magolda and Patricia M. King
4. Study Abroad in a New Global Century: Renewing the Promise, Refining the Purpose
Susan B. Twombly, Mark H. Salisbury, Shannon D. Tumanut, and Paul Klute
5. The Ecology of College Readiness
Karen D. Arnold, Elissa C. Lu, and Kelli J. Armstrong
6. Immigrant Students and Higher Education
Eunyoung Kim and Jeannette Díaz

Volume 37 ASHE Higher Education Report

1. Women’s Status in Higher Education: Equity Matters
Elizabeth J. Allan
2. Philanthropy and Fundraising in American Higher Education
Noah D. Drezner
3. Veterans in Higher Education: When Johnny and Jane Come Marching to Campus
David DiRamio and Kathryn Jarvis
4. Stonewall’s Legacy: Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Students in Higher Education
Susan B. Marine
6. Qualitative Inquiry for Equity in Higher Education: Methodological Innovations, Implications, and Interventions
Penny A. Pasque, Rozana Carducci, Aaron M. Kuntz, and Ryan Evely Gildersleeve

Volume 36 ASHE Higher Education Report

1. Cultural Capital: The Promises and Pitfalls in Educational Research
Rachelle Winkle-Wagner

A Changing World Calling for New Leaders

Students’ leadership development is a commonly stated outcome of undergraduate education (Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2012; Astin & Astin, 2000; Roberts, 2007). Public statements declaring leadership as a result of college are rooted in the belief that higher education institutions can and do influence the development of students’ leadership efficacy and skills. The challenge for leadership educators is to discover how to develop all, not simply some, students’ ability to lead. A small, elite group of individual leaders does not hold the answers to complex challenges our communities face today (Day, Harrison, & Halpin, 2009; Heifetz, 1994). Day et al. (2009) state that not only is a single leader solving these problems an impossible feat, but they believe solutions arise only when all individuals have the capacity and desire to lead. Furthermore, “all organizational members need to be leaders and all leaders need to be better prepared to participate in leadership, whatever its form” (Day et al., 2009, p. 20). This call for all to be prepared and ready is uniquely relevant for collegiate leadership programs intended to develop student leaders. This monograph is grounded in the belief that increasing the number and diversity of students affected by leadership programs is of critical importance.

Responding to the challenge placed before higher education to develop the next generation of leaders who have “the competence and character necessary to lead . . . our modern society” (Nohria & Khurana, 2010, p. 3), this monograph describes best practices to guide the language, curriculum, and developmental models of student leadership programs. The modern world is experiencing constant transformation, as evident in the context of demographic changes nationally and globally. Although diversity is a valued and defining feature of our society, it also presents challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed. As Hurtado (2007) observed, the United States is a country where “economic, racial, and religious differences are prevalent and inevitable” and where “racial and economic inequalities [are] starkly evident” (p. 186). One of the challenges is the seemingly intractable inequality in educational outcomes for citizens of different racial and ethnic backgrounds (Lee, 2002; Reardon & Galindo, 2009; W. A. Smith, Altbach, & Lomotey, 2002; St. John, 2003). This challenge provides educators an opportunity to learn and accept responsibility for closing the educational outcome gap for students from diverse backgrounds. Therefore, this monograph specifically addresses the leader development of college students from diverse backgrounds.

Within the United States, the dramatic demographic change that is occurring will have long-lasting effects on the society. The United States will become more racially and ethnically diverse in the coming decades. According to the Census data, 16.3% of the total population in 2010 is of Hispanic or Latino origin, and 12.6% Black or African American, and these two groups are the largest minority groups in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau (2008) projects that the United States will become a “minority majority” country by 2042, meaning that the racial and ethnic minorities are going to become the majority of the country. In 2050, the minority population will account for 54% of the total population in the United States. The United States is inexorably becoming more diverse. As a result, higher education will inevitably reflect this trend. A growing population of diverse students has and will continue to enroll in U.S. institutions. Existing research validates the notion that student body diversity has important educational and other benefits for college students, higher education institutions, and the broader society (Denson & Chang, 2009; Gurin, Nagda, & Lopez, 2004; Harper & Hurtado, 2007; Nelson Laird, 2005). Specifically, a diverse student body contributes to improvements in students’ cognitive skills, sociocognitive abilities, and their democratic sensibilities (Antonio et al., 2004; Chang, Denson, Saenz, & Misa, 2006; Hurtado, 2005; Luo & Jamieson-Drake, 2009). These diverse students enter college with multiple identities and an expectation that colleges be responsive to those identities (Miles, Bertrand Jones, Moore, & Golay, 2011).

Given the increasing diversity of the student population on college campuses and the trend of demographic transformation in U.S. society, it is important to consider the intersection of leadership development and diversity of college students. Astin and Astin (2000) have suggested that “the problems that plague American society are, in many respects, problems of leadership” (p. 2). They call for colleges and universities to take responsibility in developing college students’ capacity to lead and create social change. Consistently, administrators, faculty, and other campus leaders are tasked to create environments where college students can develop their leadership knowledge, skills, and values.

From economic and racial inequality to political gridlock in this country’s capital, certainly, a new type of leadership is needed to reclaim the promise of the United States. Institutions of higher education in the United States have functioned as engines for economic development and social change (Clark, 1983). Many leading scholars and prominent groups believe that higher education institutions can play an important role in meeting society’s challenges by cultivating students’ capacity to lead so that they can more effectively advance the well-being of their community and the larger society (Association of American Colleges & Universities, 2002, 2007; Astin & Astin, 2000; Dugan & Komives, 2007; Ehrlich, 2000; Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 1998, 2007). However, Nohria and Khurana (2010) have questioned this commitment, asking if students should “take the mission statements of the universities they join seriously” (p. 5). If universities continue to say one thing and yet do another, why should students or society expect or trust colleges and universities to develop the leadership skills necessary for the modern world? Educational promises risk being seen as hollow by students and society if institutions proclaim to develop leaders who can benefit society and do not deliver on that promise (Nohria & Khurana, 2010). Proclaiming and acting upon stated leadership outcomes moves institutions beyond creating job placements into serving as incubators that create tomorrow’s leaders.