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The Ph.D. in Studies in Higher Education with a specialization in Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion is the first of its kind. With an embedded fully-online Senior Diversity Officer Leadership Graduate Certificate, you will stand out among the most sought-after leaders in higher education.

Earn your Ph.D. at a highly-ranked institution recognized as a Diversity Champion and Top College for Diversity.


  • Be prepared for high-level administrative positions in diversity, equity, and inclusiveness leadership in higher education settings.
  • Demonstrate your expertise with the nine-hour, fully-online Senior Diversity Officer Leadership Graduate Certificate (embedded in Ph.D. coursework)
  • Have the distinction of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion specialization of your Ph.D. noted on your transcript
  • Be part of a flexible program designed for working professionals and dedicated scholars (many evening/online courses available)
  • 42 credits required (see program details below)
  • Application Deadlines for Ph.D. Studies in Higher Education (SHED) including SHED-DEI and SHED-IR Specializations: October 1 for Spring Enrollment and February 1 for Summer or Fall Enrollment. Apply here.
  • GRE not required for admission
  • Tuition information is available on the University Registrar’s site.
  • Scholars enrolled in the diversity, equity, and inclusion concentration of this Ph.D. will have the opportunity to apply for assistantships, as well as scholarship funding from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

I'm Ready to Apply 

Why You Should Enroll

Diversity officers on college and university campuses have a role with unique opportunities and challenges. We will guide you in learning to bring innovation, creativity, and high-level strategic thinking to diversity, equity, and inclusion roles in higher education and related settings.

Designed with the needs of working professionals in mind, our Ph.D. in Studies in Higher Education Specialization in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a new concentration within our existing Studies in Higher Education doctoral program.

In this program:

  • You will develop the competencies needed to serve as a leader for inclusive excellence and organizational change.
  • Our world-class faculty will assist you in tailoring this flexible program to your unique needs.
  • You will gain the leadership knowledge and skills needed to fill executive level positions and pursue innovative best practices in your Ph.D. work and future career.
  • You will also be mentored by experienced senior diversity officers from across the nation.

The diversity, equity, and inclusion specialization of this Ph.D. will be noted on your transcript, helping you stand out among job applicants. By completing core coursework in the Ph.D. specialization, you can add an additional credential to your resume – a nine-hour Senior Diversity Officer Leadership Graduate Certificate.

Networking & Mentorship

A significant feature of the Graduate Certificate and new Ph.D. Specialization in Diversity Equity and Inclusion will be the opportunity to network and build mentoring relationships with senior diversity officers active in the field. Through partnerships with INSIGHT into Diversity Magazine, the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, and the UK College of Education’s Education and Civil Rights Initiative in collaboration with the NAACP, students will build a network of connections and mentored relationships to assure success in their careers. These partners will be an active part of the students’ coursework as they complete their core courses in Senior Diversity Officer Leadership.

Program Details

Delivery Method: Flexible, with many online/evening courses available. This is not an online degree program; however, it is possible to build a fully online schedule.

Credit Hours: 42

Tuition Cost: Refer to Credit Hour Rates for Graduate Students on the UK Tuition and Mandatory Fees page.

Refund Policies: You can find tuition refund policies, deadlines, amounts, and other important information on the UK Student Account Services website.

As colleges and universities become more committed to the goal of inclusive excellence, more institutions are hiring professionals to coordinate diversity, equity, and inclusiveness efforts. Several commentators have noted the growing presence of diversity officers across all sectors of higher education (Frum, 2016; Smith, 2018; Stanley, Watson, Reyes, & Varela, 2019). Around two-thirds of major U.S. universities employ senior diversity officer or executive-level equivalent (Bradley, Garven, Law, & West, 2018).

Even with the growing number of administrative positions related to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness leadership, there is a dearth of specialized training for individuals interested in entering this career. Leading college and universities towards inclusive excellence and organizational change requires a set of specialized competencies (Leon, 2014; Worthington, Stanley, & Smith, 2020).

By pursuing this higher education doctoral program with the embedded graduate certificate in Senior Diversity Officer Leadership, you will develop competencies around the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education standards:

  • Envision and conceptualize the diversity mission of an institution through a broad and inclusive definition of diversity.
  • Articulate in verbal and written form, the importance of equity, inclusion, and diversity to the broader educational mission of higher education institutions.
  • Capitalize on institutional programming to enhance the diversity mission of higher education institutions for faculty, students, staff, and administrators.
  • Implement the procedural knowledge for responding to bias incidents when they occur on college or university campuses.
  • Anticipate the potential barriers that faculty face in the promotion and/or tenure process in the context of diversity-related professional activities (e.g., teaching, research, service).

Academic practitioners and individuals interested in pursuing careers in diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education or related fields will find the flexibility to choose their own path through this doctoral program with a core set of classes designed to build knowledge and skills in designing innovative approaches to creating inclusive environments.

Curriculum Guide

In consultation with their advisory committee, students choose an individualized program of study including up to:

  • 12 hours of Research Methods (quantitative, qualitative, historical, or evaluation courses)
  • 9 hours of coursework in Senior Diversity Officer Leadership
  • 9 hours of guided electives in higher education (see below)
  • 12 hours of Contextual Studies in education or related fields.

Students are encouraged to enroll in courses throughout the College and University to create an intellectually diverse program of study. Stacking a Graduate Certificate (offered by the College of Arts & Sciences) in Diversity & Inclusion (no extra credits needed) is recommended. See course descriptions below.


Download Program Plan


Recommended Electives to Build Concentration or Context

These are regularly offered courses.

EPE 654 Diversity and Higher Education: This course examines how various aspects of post-secondary education are impacted by diversity, power, and privilege. While race and ethnicity are foregrounded in this course, students also engage in readings and critical discussions regarding the role of gender identity and expression, socio-economic status, religion, sexual orientation, and able-bodiedness on issues such as post-secondary access, the college student experience, college/university curricula, higher education policy, and administrative practices. (Fall)

EPE674: Theories of Student Development: This course is an examination of theories and related research that inform our understanding of patterns of student growth and development during college years. Students engage in critical analysis of theories of identity development through analysis of self and the voice of others. This course examines major bodies of theory related to college student development and the constraints and affordances of contexts in which that development occurs. (Summer-Online)

EPE675: Sociology of Higher Education: A study of higher education and society using sociological views and policy perspectives. Topics include inequality and diversity in higher education; universities and colleges as social organizations and cultural institutions; the academic profession, academic departments and disciplines; the social and academic lives of students; as well as the impact of higher education and its relations to labor markets. (Spring, Summer-Online)

EPE683: Equity and Access in Higher Education: This course will examine the legal, educational and public policy issues that promote or hinder access to higher education. The focus will be on selective public and private institutions. (Spring)

I'm Ready to Apply 


Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have regarding this program. We can’t wait to hear from you!


Jane McEldowney Jensen

Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies

(859) 257-1929

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