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The conceptual framework guiding the activities of the DEAI at Kennesaw State included both a theoretical model and a process model.

Our theoretical model came from Daryl G. Smith’s research, which outlines four domains for studying diversity in university settings. Smith’s model has guided research similar to ours at numerous other institutions. Most notably, a partnership between the Association of American Colleges and Universities and Claremont University, funded by The James Irvine Foundation, established a generative approach for others to adapt. In a 2004 preliminary report, “The Campus Diversity Initiative: Current Status, Anticipating the Future,” Smith describes the collaboration among 28 California institutions that used her framework to “strengthen the impact of campus diversity efforts, increase institutional capacity to monitor progress on diversity, and also to contribute to the knowledge base in the field” (2). Similarly, in a May 2006 final report, Smith and several colleagues involved in that project explain how it enhanced participating universities’ capacity-building around diversity through its emphasis on “organizational learning” around the four dimensions Smith conceptualized (3).

The process model for this project drew on research in educational reform and on promising practices for collaborative inquiry already in use at Kennesaw State University. Central to our process was a commitment to and an application of distributed leadership. Rather than taking a top-down approach, the DEAI assembled a team of faculty and staff from all over campus, including junior as well as senior faculty, with leaders of the various teams bringing a range of expertise. The second key component of the project’s process model was iterative assessment—a strategy of carrying out assessment via diverse research traditions, integrating initial findings into subsequent inquiry, developing additional research questions along the way, and projecting future assessment needs rather than coming to definitive conclusions.