DeAndre Taylor, a third-year student in CU Denver’s EdD program with a concentration in executive leadership, works as interim associate director of educational initiatives within Residence Life at CU Boulder. He embraces diversity as a core strength in university settings. With approaches of care, patience, fortitude, listening ears, and the ability to lean into uncomfortable conversations, higher education leaders can improve services and opportunities for diverse university students and employees.
Taylor’s undergraduate experiences at the University of Wisconsin influenced his career path, from the bias-motivated incidents he experienced in residence halls to much more positive interactions that influenced his decision to stay at college.
“I’m always thinking about how I can pay it forward to those individuals who helped me have a more welcoming experience, despite the challenges that I had,” said Taylor. “How did they do that? Really, the tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion uphold that vision for student success. Everyone should have access to quality education. Education is what is going to drive a person’s life.”
This moment in history provides a heightened opportunity for higher education faculty and staff to get involved in diversity and equity conversations and take antiracist stances. Universities have opportunities to thread inclusionary initiatives and dialogue throughout their student touchpoints, including within university housing.
For his EdD dissertation-in-practice, Taylor plans to explore and discover barriers to upper mobility and career advancement opportunities for Black housing professionals at universities using data from the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I). What would improve employee retention and career success of diverse individuals in the field? How do we help to change systems that are confusing or oppressive? “We have to break down silos in our society,” he said.
Dr. Rodney Blunck, Taylor’s faculty mentor at the School of Education and Human Development, offered glowing remarks about his student’s abilities to do just that: “DeAndre is an excellent doctoral student and an equally exceptional role model for others. He leverages his passion for equity along with his compassion for others to increase student agency and organizational flexibility needed to drive students’ success.”
Taylor highly recommends his doctoral program to others because all courses have equity as a focus. “The professors and my cohort peers, we push each other to think about education from that equity lens. When people ask me whether they should pursue a doctorate, I say, ‘Absolutely. Believe in yourself. The hardest part is applying.’ The things that I develop and learn in this program will follow me no matter where I go as a leader, no matter what. And other folks are rooting and cheering me on.”
Doctoral studies keep Taylor grounded and focused on an end goal. For Taylor and many others, it is an exciting time to be in higher education right now, despite new challenges. “We are changing and shifting in many different areas as a result of COVID. I’m excited to lead through the change and see what it’s going to look like in the years to come.”