Maria E. Dezenberg, Ph.D. is a 2017 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Maria E. Dezenberg [center] at her Dissertation Defense with Dissertation Chair, Dr. Lize Booysen [left] and Dissertation Committee Member, Dr. Elizabeth Holloway [right].

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize Booysen, DBL, Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Harriet Schwartz, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Placida Gallegos, Ph.D., Committee Member


inclusive leadership, organizational culture, organizational climate, workplace climate, Positive Organizational Scholarship, education, inclusion, employee voice, high-quality relationships, positive communication, change, grounded theory, case study

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Conventional forms of leadership that are prominent in organizational life today are seemingly antithetical to the landscape of our dynamic, global society. The continued focus on traditional hierarchies with leadership that functions in a “chain of command” manner begs the question of how organizations can reshape routines and relationships to reflect processes of inclusion and collaboration that have the capability of provoking progressive change in organizations. Diversity and Inclusion scholars have identified the newer construct of inclusive leadership as apt to advance climates and cultures of inclusion through social processes that encourage inclusive practices and behaviors. These fluid aspects of inclusive leadership strengthen how organizations foster the engagement of organizational members across groups, functions, and/or levels to stimulate change within work settings. While scholars have ascertained the necessity of expanding our knowledge of the inclusion construct by examining inclusion in more depth, inclusive leadership remains an anomaly as it positions leadership as a collective, social process. The complexities associated with research in this area were instrumental in my choice to pursue an exploratory critical (single) case study with grounded theory for this dissertation research to better understand the social processes associated with inclusive leadership within a contained work environment. This multiple method qualitative study utilized intensive interviewing, field observations, and document reviews to explore inclusive leadership in a K-12 school district. Thematic, content, and dimensional analyses elicited findings associated with human connection, change, and evolving contexts associated with inclusive systems. The overlapping case study and grounded theory findings served as the basis for the development of an inclusive leadership model. The research provided empirical evidence of inclusive leadership’s effect on organizational climates and cultures eliciting four theoretical propositions that expand scholarship in the areas inclusive leadership, inclusive practices and behaviors, and climates and cultures of inclusion. Recommendations for future research invite further exploration of inclusive leadership with inquiry across multiple organizations and/or different sectors with the use of different research designs to build on this study’s findings. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


Maria E. Dezenberg, Ph.D.

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Passionate about progressive change and collaborative work cultures in the education sector, Maria has a history of engaging school organizations through change-oriented leadership that promotes empowered, people-centric workplaces. She specializes in team and organization transformation with an emphasis on employee engagement and growth initiatives. Her track record of cultivating teamwork to evolve solutions and yield outcomes has optimized organizational dynamics to create an enduring impact for students, stakeholders, institutions, and communities across the complex landscape that shapes education in today’s global society.

Her professional experience extends across a range of educational contexts in leadership, administration, accreditation, and teaching. She has served in the positions of President for a multi-campus university, Vice President for a chain of ESL schools, and interim Associate Provost for an 18-campus college. Presently, she spearheads the launch of internationalization strategy for Richard Bland College of William and Mary.

She is interested in the shifting trends of our increasingly dynamic, professional environment and its impact on the education sector. Her research examines school leadership, workplace climate, and organizational culture within the context of inclusion and Positive Organizational Scholarship. The findings evidence the relational practice, organic change, and global perspectives cultivated by inclusive leadership and cultures of inclusion offer generative potential for school organizations. As a resource for schools looking to optimize inclusive leadership and its positive organizing practices, Maria founded Inclusive Leadership Solutions (ILS). For more information, contact her at

She holds a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Arts in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, an Education Specialist degree (Ed.S) in Education Leadership and Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a Master of Arts degree in International Relations from the University of San Diego, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Eastern Washington University.