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APSU to offer new graduate degree concentrations in diversity and community leadership


CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Last month, the business-focused social media site LinkedIn released its annual “Jobs on the Rise” list, highlighting the “25 fastest-growing job titles over the past five years.” This year’s list ranked “Diversity and Inclusion Manager” as the third fastest-growing job in the U.S., and according to LinkedIn, “a search of ‘diversity and inclusion’ among current job openings shows hundreds of thousands of results.” More and more employers are adding this type of position to their organizations, but who exactly is qualified to fill these new roles?

“A lot of people right now are tasked with leading Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts or initiatives,” Dr. Kathryn Woods, Austin Peay State University associate professor of leadership, said. “You see organizations release a diversity statement or form a diversity committee, but what does that mean? Leaders are tasked with these responsibilities, but often have no academic training to prepare them to succeed.”

Next fall, Austin Peay’s Department of Leadership is looking to change that hiring oversight – and to make job-seekers more marketable – with one of two new concentrations offered within the Master of Science and Leadership degree. In August 2023, the department will offer graduate degree concentrations in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and in Community Leadership.

“We’re able to provide a credential that backs that up and says ‘I have training in that area,’” Woods said. “We can support these students by providing programs rooted in behavioral science theory, research and practice.”

As the LinkedIn report makes clear, the demand for these types of degrees has grown steadily over the years. The APSU Department of Leadership initially developed graduate certificates in the two areas, but Woods said graduate students wanted full graduate degrees in these fields.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, college-age students “are passionate about advocating for social change,” and the Pew Research Center reported that “about 70 percent of Gen Zers believe that the government should be more active in addressing problems.” To follow their interests, while also being employable, the students are looking for programs in DEI and Community Leadership.

“There’s a community leadership class and two grant writing classes that go into the Community Leadership Concentration,” Woods said. “So people who work for non-profit organizations or government entities or in the higher education environment – especially if they’re interested in grant funding – they can use these skills to help their communities thrive.”

“The DEI coursework is capitalizing on the renewed focus on attracting, developing and retaining a diverse workforce. We have had an influx of students who are interested in these skills or are tasked with managing these efforts.”

Austin Peay’s Master of Science in Leadership is a fully online, 30-hour graduate degree program.

“We’ve been intentional about scheduling, so full-time students can start in August and finish in May,” Woods said. “Part-time students who are already working full-time can finish in two years.”

The degree’s community leadership concentration provides students with an overview of issues important to civic engagement and community needs. This program is focused on leading non-profit, government, civic, or community-based organizations that could benefit from grant funding. 

The DEI concentration will equip leaders with the skills to cultivate a diverse, equitable and inclusive climate, and it is ideal for anyone interested in careers in most professional environments, including information technology, human resources, mass media, military and other government organizations, social services, health care, non-profit organizations, and education.

The department also offers a concentration in strategic leadership and six graduate certificate programs. For information on these graduate degree concentrations, visit https://www.apsu.edu/leadership/graduate/strategicleadership.

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