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Deborah E. Southern

UC Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow
Deborah Southern
Deborah E. Southern
UC Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Deborah E. Southern (she/her) is a University of California Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow with the Department of Education and Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at University of California, Los Angeles. As a higher education scholar and qualitative methodologist, Dr. Southern employs critical theories on racialized organizations and whiteness to study organizational change and how racial justice is possibly facilitated or restrained by organizational mechanisms and leaders. One important contribution of Dr. Southern's research examines how whiteness in institutions via areas like organizational structures, practices, and leaders’ racial comfort works to obstruct racial justice.

Formerly, Dr. Southern was a research assistant in the Equity in Graduate Education Consortium and the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Dr. Southern earned her PhD from the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.

Originally from Rochester, N.Y., Dr. Southern earned a Master’s in Higher Education at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor where she also worked as a practitioner in student affairs for five years. Dr. Southern earned a Bachelor’s in Asian Studies and History at Occidental College after transferring from community college.

To learn more about the University of California Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship, including the program's hiring incentive for UC campuses, visit here:

Visit Dr. Southern's webpage here:

Teaching and Research Interests

Titles and Positions

  • University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA), 2022-2023
    University of California Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program
    Higher Education & Organizational Change and Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies
    Advisor: Dr. Mitchell Chang


  • University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA), 2017-2022
    PhD, Urban Education Policy, Higher Education Concentration
    Dissertation: Tempering transformative change: Whiteness and racialized emotions in graduate leaders’ implementation of equity plans
    Advisor: Dr. Julie Posselt
    Committee: Drs. Estela Bensimon, Shaun Harper, Ben Carrington, Cheryl Matias
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI), 2016
    MA, Higher Education, Diversity and Social Justice Concentration
  • Occidental College (Los Angeles, CA), 2011
    BA with Honors, Asian Studies and History

Awards, Honors, Fellowships

  • University of Southern California Rossier School of Education Dean's Research Grant, 2020-2021
    Examining whiteness and mechanisms of change in higher education organizations: Graduate leaders’ implementation of equity, University of Southern California
  • Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship Honorable Mention, 2019
  • Rossier Dean’s Fellowship, University of Southern California, 2017-2022