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William R. Osmun, Ph.D. is a 2019 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Osmun at his Dissertation Defense.

L-R: Dr. Philomena Essed, Committee Chair, Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Member, Dr. Robert Giloth, Committee Member (not shown).

Dissertation Committee

  • Philomena Essed, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Lize Booysen DBL, Committee Member
  • Robert Giloth, Ph.D., Committee Member


Altruism, Biographical Narrative Inquiry, Dehumanization, Empathy, Employment Discrimination, Hiring, Human Resource Management, Human Resource Professionals, Non-traditional Talent Pool, Prosocial Development, Positive Intergroup Contact

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Employment is the key to economic and social mobility through which one can potentially manage and maintain self-respect, purpose, dignity, agency, and meaning. Human resource professionals (HRPs), therefore, as gatekeepers to employment have an immense potential impact on the lives of historically marginalized populations and their communities. The purpose of this study was to better understand why HRPs hire from historically and structurally marginalized populations and what resistance they face as a result. While many studies have looked at the phenomenon of hiring discrimination and its opposite, there is a dearth of literature and understanding of the “micro” dynamics of progressive hiring. This study centered on interviews with 17 HRPs who had a reputation of intentionally and successfully hiring from structurally targeted and marginalized groups. Using biographical narrative inquiry, I asked: what motivates HRPs to hire from historically and structurally marginalized populations and what challenges and resistance do they face preceding, during or as a result of these efforts? From the results of the interviews, themes were identified which included insights into how the participants defined the non-traditional talent pools (NTTPs) they focused on; the distinctions between hiring because of organizational goals versus personal motivation; the nature of resistance HRPs encountered in progressive hiring and their means for dealing with this; strategies used for outreach to NTTPs, how HRPs defined success, and overall key insights, as seen by the participants. The themes were reviewed in relation to a number of normative frameworks in the literature that prescribe models for combating discrimination and, more generally for leadership and change. The study concludes with suggestions for how its results and conclusion contribute to research and, when framed as recommendations, to practice. This dissertation is accompanied by the author’s MP4 video introduction and is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and Ohiolink ETD Center,


Will Osmun, Ph.D.

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0001-6254-2559

Dr. Osmun is the Vice President and Chief Strategist for the Urban League of West Michigan, where he brings decades of community development experience to bridging the gap between those with power and under resourced communities through programing in employment, housing, health, youth, education, and racial equity, diversity and inclusion. He is also an experienced consultant and national speaker working across industries, sectors, and communities. Skilled in facilitating difficult conversations that range from how we “other” (racism, sexism, classism, etc.) to creating workplaces and communities of belonging.

Active in his community, Dr. Osmun serves on numerous committees and boards, including Kids’ Food Basket and the Compassionate Listening Project. Following a 30-year career in the private sector, his other roles have included: State Director for the myCommunity Connect initiative for United Health Care in Michigan; the Executive Director of The SOURCE, an employer led non-profit; and co-founder of the Greater Grand Rapids Racial Equity Network.

Dr. Osmun’s professional awards include: UnitedHealthcare Community and State Innovation Award (2015); Systems Thinking Champion Award (2012), Grand Rapids, MI Chamber of Commerce; Rookie of the Year 2012 at the National Skills Coalition; and an Aspen Institute Sector Skills Academy Marano Fellow.

Will has earned an Master’s in Management from Aquinas College, an Master’s of Science in Supply Chain Logistics from Michigan State University, and an Master’s of Arts in Leadership in Change from Antioch University. His Ph.D. dissertation is entitled: Hiring the “Other”—A Biographical Narrative Inquiry of Progressive Human Resource Professionals.