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Maria Chavez-Haroldson, Ph.D. is a 2020 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Chavez-Haroldson at her Dissertation Defense.

L-R: Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Chair, Dr. Angelo Gomez, Committee Member, Dr. Elizabeth Holloway, Committee Member (not pictured)

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize Booysen, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Angelo Gomez, J.D., Committee Member


Diversity Officers, Equity Diversity Inclusion Leadership, Cultural Responsiveness Relevance and Reinforcment, Focus Groups, Higher Education Institutions, Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis, LatinX Cultural Values, Scholarly Personal Writing

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The purpose of this research study is to share scholarly data that may assist in the recognition and cultural understanding of LatinX Chief DOs in higher education institutions. This multi-phase, qualitative study critically considers the participants’ sociopolitical, psychological, and, cultural situated-ness as equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) leaders in higher education institutions (HEIs). Despite the psychological stressors, the participants described how and why they are energized by their commitment to creating change as social justice campeonas (champions). This study explains why LatinX DOs leading EDI institutional change in the 21st century, places them in precarious sociopolitical circumstances. Cultural values are identified by the research study participants as foundational to their identity, sources of motivation, tenacity, and, strength for leading EDI, institutional change. An interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) methodology is applied to this study describing, interpreting, contextualizing, and gaining in-depth insights into specific concepts of the phenomena; of “being” LatinX DOs in HEIs leading EDI. Eight participants were identified through a purposive process. Referred to here as “co-researchers,” they engaged as experts of their own interpretations, and as narrators of their own stories. This study included non-Westernized epistemological and ontological perspectives. A hermeneutic, subjective-reflective process of interpretation explored the co-researcher's social, contextual, and cultural truths—the wholeness of their experiences. The co-researchers engaged in a multi-phase, qualitative study which included individual interviews, and, two facilitated focus groups held over multiple days. The co-researchers developed a co-constructed, collective narrative highlighting the urgency to interrupt and change oppressive patterns and behaviors in themselves, in their respective institutions, and, the communities to which they belong. The findings offer higher education leaders, and members of the dominant culture, deeply insightful, thought-provoking critiques. This study also demonstrated how leadership, social justice change, and cultural values are interrelated. Finally, this study emphasizes co-researchers’ lived experience and the belief that 21st-century leaders in higher education institutions must be based within and upon an EDI framework. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


Maria Chavez-Haroldson, Ph.D.

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0003-4696-2074

Maria Chavez-Haroldson, Ph.D., is an international/national trainer and owner of EDI Consulting, LLC. Her consulting work focuses on organizational development which is built upon equitable, diverse, and inclusive (EDI) practices. Her doctoral research focuses on the lived experiences of LatinX Diversity Champions in higher education and how they access their cultural values as key foundations for their leadership in a predominately white male-led academic world. Maria applied the Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis methodology which highlighted the importance of identifying cultural values and their impact on leadership. She is an immigrant from Mexico and gives her deepest love and respect to her parents for the sacrifices made so she can attain academic success: Arturo Limas Marlen and Refugio Chavez Marlen. She serves as an executive EDI thinking partner. Maria applies an Appreciative Inquiry model to her work as a highly trained conflict resolution facilitator. Maria is a member of Oregon State University’s Courageous Conversations Initiative. She has served as the Vice President of Metropolitan Group, a social change agency in Portland, and as Director of the Office of Inclusion & Intercultural Relations for Oregon Youth Authority. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Human Sciences and two Master’s Degrees; Public Administration and Leadership and Change. Maria’s prior professional experiences include: serving as Associate Director for the Center for Latin@ Studies and Engagement at Oregon State University; Executive Director for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates); Director of Crime Victim Unit for the Yamhill County District Attorney’s Office; Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for children who have survived assault; Adjunct-Faculty on Judicial Reform for the Conference of Western Attorneys General Alliance Partnership having taught in most states in Mexico, Central American and Europe. She served as a Qualified Mental Health Professional working with immigrant youth and families. For twelve consecutive years, Maria and her husband have led the Northwestern Delegation to the Chicago United States Hispanic Leadership Conference and also provide yearly leadership workshops for 4-H Students throughout the Northwest. Maria shares her love, life, dreams and blessings with her lifetime partner, District Attorney (Benton County, Oregon, USA), John Morris Haroldson Suarez. Together they lead as global social justice advocates and leaders. Maria is a proud mother of four amazing adult children, nine supportive siblings, and seven adorable grandchildren who now refer to her as ‘Doctor Nana'.