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Teaching diversity in North American higher education master's programs: curricula and rationales

MaryBeth Walpole (Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, USA)
Felicia Crockett (Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, USA)
Stephanie Lezotte (Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, USA)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 23 November 2021

Issue publication date: 6 December 2022




This study aims to examine North American master's programs in higher education administration, leadership and student affairs; the extent to which these programs incorporate diversity coursework; and their reasons for doing so. Graduate programs must prepare practitioners who are able to work effectively with multiple groups of students, ameliorate persistence and graduation gaps, and create more socially just campuses.


Using an open-ended questionnaire and document analysis, the authors analyzed the extent to which and why these master's programs incorporate courses and course material on diversity.


Exactly half of higher education leadership (50%) and a small majority of student affairs (52%) programs require some type of diversity course, while only 42% of higher education administration programs do so. Reported reasons for including such coursework include students' demand for such courses, the centrality of diversity to university missions and standards in the field.

Research limitations/implications

Research on faculty perceptions regarding the need for diversity courses with a focus on interest convergence may be productive.

Practical implications

Program directors should ensure that coursework on diversity is required, and that faculty teaching these courses are comfortable discussing these topics to prepare students to work with diverse groups in multiple contexts.


This study uses multiple methods (document analysis, open-ended questionnaire of program directors) to analyze programs and program design intentions. The authors use the critical race theory framework's tenet of interest convergence to understand program rationales.



Walpole, M., Crockett, F. and Lezotte, S. (2022), "Teaching diversity in North American higher education master's programs: curricula and rationales", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 1731-1741.



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