Date of Award

Spring 1-28-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Jeffrey Lee, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Cheryl-Marie Osborne, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Marcie Plummer, Ed.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify and describe how California Community College senior-level leaders of color are culturally responsive in their leadership strategies, based on Horsford, Grosland, and Gunn’s (2011) culturally relevant leadership framework.

Methodology: This qualitative ethnographic study identified and described the culturally responsive leadership practices utilized by 15 senior-level leaders of color within California Community Colleges and explored how their lived experiences and identities influence their ability to lead their institutions using the four dimensions of Horsford et al.’s (2011) culturally relevant leadership framework: political context, personal journey, pedagogical approach, and professional duty. Participants were purposefully selected based on specific criteria. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews, observations, and artifacts.

Findings: Data analysis led to 10 major findings. These findings revealed that culturally responsive senior-level leaders of color: (a) engender self-authenticity amidst disparate expectations, (b) leverage situations to advance equity, (c) embed equity within college structures, (d) build community and collaboration, (e) engage diverse voices in critical conversations, (f) ensure the learning environment meets student needs, (g) draw upon their identity and lived experience to create an inclusive campus environment, (h) practice reflexive leadership, (i) manifest self-actualization in their professional life, and (j) challenge structural injustices.

Conclusions: Supported by and based on the research findings of this study and connected to the literature, 11 conclusions were drawn that offered deeper insight into the culturally responsive leadership strategies used by senior-level leaders of color. These conclusions have significant implications for district governing boards, college presidents, faculty senates, and participatory governance groups to center equity in policy and decision-making, embed anti-racist practices in curriculum and pedagogy, and recognize the cultural wealth and unique competencies that leaders of color bring to the institution.

Recommendations: Further research is needed to explore the unique experiences of women and/or first-year senior-level leaders of color, examine higher education leadership programs that include aspects of lived experience and identity in leadership practice and its impact on cultural responsiveness, and investigate the extent to which a leader’s culturally responsive leadership approach improves the learning environment for students of color.