Diversity and academic excellence: The pathway to national preeminence

Ralph Fitzpatrick, University of Pennsylvania


Many institutions of higher education have struggled with issues of improved access for minorities while positioning themselves to achieve academic excellence in the 21st century. The University of Louisville is one of those institutions. Realizing these twin goals: equity and research excellence is an extraordinarily difficult challenge. My case study explored the University of Louisville's drive to become a premier metropolitan research university while it simultaneously addresses issues of equity. The study explored four primary questions. Beginning in 1950, what major events set into action a series of desegregation policies and practices in the state of Kentucky? What set of events led to the University of Louisville determining to become a major metropolitan research university? What progress has been made in African American advancement in higher education generally in Kentucky and specifically at the University of Louisville over the past 50 years? What are the major stakeholders views on whether and to what extent diversity, quality and excellence coexist or can coexist at the University of Louisville? In my literature review I identified several major themes that were integral to African American advancement in higher education. My review focused primarily on higher education's experience with providing avenues of educational access for African Americans, dating from the establishment of the Morrill Act of 1890 to the separate, but equal, integration and civil rights legislation periods, to the present day practices and challenges of the 21st century. Qualitative methodology was chosen as the best approach to guide this study because it allowed the author to ask “how” and “why” questions in personal, approximately one hour in-length interviews. I interviewed twenty-nine individuals representing political and educational policy framers, university administrators and faculty, trustee and state coordinating board members, students and community representatives. I also analyzed a number of documents including trustees summaries, oral histories, Office of Civil Rights reports, State Council on Higher Education reports, University of Louisville's strategic plan documents, Commonwealth's higher education strategic planning documents, and University of Louisville's institutional effectiveness and assessment documents. This study was designed to aid the university community in understanding its historic past and the present day challenge of improving access for minorities while it pursues national preeminence. The lessons learned from this study may help other institutions with similar goals.

Subject Area

Higher education|African Americans

Recommended Citation

Fitzpatrick, Ralph, "Diversity and academic excellence: The pathway to national preeminence" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3084857.