Adrianna Kezar

  • Dean's Professor of Leadership
  • Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education
  • Director Pullias Center for Higher Education

Research Concentration

  • Higher Education


PhD, Education, University of Michigan, MA, Education, University of Michigan, 

BA, Art History, University of California, Los Angeles


  • Higher Education • Leadership • Diversity
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ADRIANNA KEZAR is the Dean’s Professor of Leadership, Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education and Director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. Dr. Kezar holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in higher education administration from the University of Michigan and a B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles. She joined the faculty at USC in 2003 after serving at the University of Maryland and George Washington University as a faculty member. 

Dr. Kezar is a national expert of change and leadership in higher education and her research agenda explores the change process in higher education institutions and the role of leadership in creating change. Adrianna’s change and leadership research has been used by government agencies, accreditation bodies, foundations, state systems, consortium, and individual campuses to forward change agendas and initiatives and me leadership research has been used to design leadership development among national associations, consortium of colleges, and campus-based leadership programs. She also regularly consults for campuses and national organizations related to her work on diversity/equity/inclusion, non-tenure track faculty, STEM reform, collaboration, and governance. She is an international expert on the changing faculty and she directs the Pullias Center’s Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success. She is regularly quoted in the media related to her research including: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, The Atlantic, PBS, NPR (national and local stations), Al-Jazerra, Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, among others. 

Dr. Kezar is well published with 25 books/monographs, over 100 journal articles, and over 100 book chapters and reports. Recent books include: Shared Leadership in higher Education: Responding to a Changing Environment (2021) (Stylus Press); The Gig Academy (2019) (Johns Hopkins Press), and Administration for Social Justice and Equity (2019) (Routledge). She has been cited — 21,300 times — and her H-index score of 70 is at the level for the most productive scholars in academe with 55 being the average for National Academy of Science members.

She has acquired more than $22 million dollars in grant funding and has worked on grant-funded projects exceeding $35 million dollars on a variety of projects to fundamentally improve higher education.  She was Principal Investigator for a $6.2 million study funded by the Buffett Foundation, one of the largest funded research projects ever awarded in higher education.  She currently has two National Science Foundation Studies, one focused on developing a national faculty survey. 

She is an AERA Fellow, and has received several national awards including the ASHE research award, ASHE leadership award, ACE leadership award, and service award from the National Society for Experiential Learning.

Dr. Kezar has participated actively in national/professional service.  She is past Vice President for AERA Division J, WASC commissioner, TIAA-CREF Lead Fellow, Haynes Fellow, and served as a member of a consensus panel for the National Academy of Science’s National Research Council Panel. She serves as editor for Change magazine, is section editor for the Higher Education Handbook of Theory and Practice, and edits the Stylus books series on non-tenure track faculty. Formerly, she was editor of the ASHE Higher Education report series.  She has served, or is currently serving, on 12 editorial boards including The Journal of Higher education, The Review of Higher Education, The Journal of College Student Development, and serves as a reviewer for 23 journals in and outside higher education. 

Professional service roles also include Board membership for AERA-Division J Council and the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Dr. Kezar also serves(d) on numerous national higher education boards including for the Gates Foundation, American Association for Higher Education, Association of American Colleges and Universities; National TRIO Clearinghouse. She provides volunteer service for several national organizations including the SEAChange, HERS/Bryn Mawr Summer Institute, Center for the Study of Academic Labor, Accelerating systemic reform in STEM, Project Kaleidoscope, Pathways to College Network, and the Kellogg Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good. 

Dr. Kezar works regularly with national organizations as an advisor and consultant including higher education associations such as the American Council on Education, American Association of Colleges and Universities, Association of Public and Land Grants Colleges, Association for Governing Boards, League of Innovation, American Association of University Professors; philanthropic organizations such as Gates, Teagle, Spencer, Carnegie, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Lumina Foundations; national projects such as Achieving the Dream, Accelerating Systemic Reform in STEM Education; and government agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes for Health, National Institute for the Humanities. This work represents her deep commitment to bring her change and leadership scholarship to policy and practice. 

She has been a plenary speaker for dozens of national conferences a few examples include American Association of Colleges and Universities, CUPA-HR, First Year Experience Conference, Project Kaleidescope, POD, and TIAA-CREF Leadership Forum. She has also been a plenary speaker for State Systems including Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Washington and regional organizations like the California Learning Communities Conference. 


Courses Taught


Professional Affiliations and Memberships

  • Director, Pullias Center for Higher Education          2020-present
  • Professor, University of Southern California           2012-present
  • Co-Director, Pullias Center for Higher Education 
  • Associate Professor, University of Southern California  2003-2012
  • Associate Director, Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis, Higher Education
  • Assistant Professor, University of Maryland Department of Educational Policy and Leadership
  • Assistant Professor, The George Washington University
  • Director, ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education Department of Educational Leadership
  • Coordinator for Assessment, University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
  • Student Affairs Associate, University of Michigan Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs  


Dr. Kezar’s research agenda explores the change process in higher education institutions and the role of leadership in creating change (see She regularly speaks at conferences, seminars, and workshops to help higher education leaders tackle the key challenges of changing demographics and diversity, student success, student outcomes assessment, and STEM reform and ways campuses can be more effective through collaboration/partnerships, effective shared governance, communities of practice, organizational learning, and shared leadership. She is one of the foremost experts internationally on contingent or non-tenure track faculty (see She has published 18 books/monographs, over 100 peer reviewed journal articles, and over a 100 book chapters and reports.  She has acquired approximately $13 million dollars in grant funding and has worked on grant-funded projects totaling approximately $26 million dollars. She has been cited in the scholarly literature over 5200 times.


Principal investigator, (2022-2023). FACE project. National Science Foundation, $1,500,000. Design a survey and pilot a nationally representative faculty survey.

Principal investigator, (2021-2025). Promoting at promise student success. Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, $5 million. Mixed methods study of the impact of a comprehensive student transition and success program for low-income students.

Principal Investigator, (2021-2022).  Creating systemic institutional change through an ecology of leader ship. A project to refine tools for leaders to enact institutional transformation. Gates foundation, $260,000

Principal Investigator, (2021-2023).  Equity minded-leadership in higher education.  A qualitative study of campus leadership teams to explore how they achieve equity goals through equity leadership practices. Arthur Vining Foundation, $320,000.   

Principal investigator, An Examination of the Thompson Scholars Learning community Program. Anonymous Foundation, 6-year study. Mixed methods study of the impact of a comprehensive student transition and success program for low income students,

Principal investigator, Planning grant for the Thompson Scholars Learning community Program.  Anonymous Foundation, 6 month study.  Planning for a mixed methods study of the impact of the program on student affect and cognitive outcomes. 

Principal investigator, Association of American Universities – Transforming undergraduate STEM reform, (2014-2017). National Science Foundation, $400,000. Mixed methods study of AAU’s ability to scale STEM pedagogical reform at AAU campuses.

Principal investigator, Delphi Project on New Faculty models, (2014-2015), TIAA-CREF Research Institute, $70,000, Study to understand stakeholder’s views of new faculty model in higher education.

Principal investigator, California State University STEM collaboratives, (2014-2017).  Helmsley Trust, $400,000. Mixed methods study of undergraduate STEM reform directed at student success.

Principal investigator, Achieving scale for STEM reform:  Studying and enhancing undergraduate STEM communities of practice/networks, (2013-2016).  National Science Foundation, $600,000. Mixed methods study of large scale communities of practice for faculty to adopt and scale new pedagogical practices in STEM courses.

Co- Principal investigator (with Project Kaleidoscope), Facilitating institutional transformation for STEM undergraduate reform. (2012-1014).  Keck Foundation. $250,000. Develop an instrument that helps campuses undergo an organizational learning process to facilitate institutional transformation aiming to make undergraduate STEM education more engaging, active, interdisciplinary, and outcomes based.