An ecological model for building multiculturalism and social justice in institutions of higher education

Document Type


Publication Date



Higher Education


How can we effectively create more diverse and inclusive colleges and universities? This is a pressing question facing institutions of higher education as they are challenged to comprehensively respond to rapidly changing demographics and urgent sociopolitical challenges in a way that will allow for all members of campus communities to thrive. In response to these common challenges and opportunities, the purpose of this presentation is to describe processes for moving an academic institution towards multiculturalism within a social justice context. We expand upon Wielkiewicz and Stelzner's (2005) theoretical framework for leadership and apply it to address multiculturalism and social justice in higher education. This leadership theory is based upon ecological principles that defines leadership as a process instead of the actions and decisions of a positional leader. The central element of the theory is this: "organizations are more adaptive when there is a diversity of genuine input into the decision-making processes" (Wielkiewicz & Stelzner, 2005, p. 326). In addition, this approach emphasizes the role of ecological principles of interdependence among organizational leaders and multiple stakeholders, open systems with an emphasis on feedback loops, and cycling of resources which involves broadly engaging talent across the organization. From our perspective, current models of how to infuse a multicultural perspective on college campuses do not adequately account for the systemic context in which such change must take place. We argue that an extension of this theoretical model to the domain of higher education will help practitioners move colleges and universities toward more diverse, inclusive, and just orientations. Finally, we address potential applications of this theory to leading sustainable multicultural change on our campuses.


The slides for this presentation are not available.