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“I strive to be an equity-minded leader and scholar who is committed to student success, academic excellence, and economic mobility.”

J. Luke Wood, Ph.D. is the Vice President for Student Affairs & Campus Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer at San Diego State University (SDSU). Wood is also the Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Education and a tenured full Professor in the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education (ARPE) at SDSU. According to the Black in the Crimson in Black, Wood is the first and only Distinguished Professor of Black/African American descent in SDSU’s history. In 2023, Wood was appointed by the state Senate to serve on the newly established California Racial Equity Commission. He joined SDSU in 2011 and is an active researcher and equity-driven leader.

In his capacity as Vice President, Wood oversees a Division of nearly 500 professional staff and 2,000 student staff designed to provide co-curricular experiences to students and advance equity and inclusion for students, faculty, and staff at SDSU. Wood leads an operating budget of $46 million with 55 departments in Student Affairs (e.g., Student Health, Counseling, Residence Halls, Student Life, Financial Aid, Cultural Centers, Fraternity and Sorority Life) and Campus Diversity (e.g., faculty and staff professional learning, Employee Resource Groups, faculty inclusion-hiring, general advising). In 2021-2022, his Division secured more than $12 million in philanthropic and sponsorship funding to support critical student and faculty initiatives. Prior to becoming Chief Diversity Officer and Cabinet member in 2018, Wood served as the Director of the Joint Ph.D. Program in Education between SDSU and Claremont Graduate University (2016-2018) and Director of the Ed.D. Program in Community College Leadership at SDSU (2013-2018). Before this, Wood was the Director of the Executive Ed.D. Program at Lincoln Memorial University and Coordinator of the Arizona Education Policy Fellowship Program (AZ-EPFP).

As a Distinguished Professor, Wood serves as the Co-Director of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL), a national research and practice center that partners with community colleges to support their capacity in advancing outcomes for underserved students of color. Through CCEAL, Wood has served as an advisor and consultant to hundreds of colleges and university leaders on strategic planning, equity and diversity planning, diversity crisis management, equitable hiring practices, and reducing equity gaps for students of color. Wood is also the Founding Professor of the Black Minds Matter public course and virtual series. The series features leading educators and activists who draw parallels between the experiences of Black lives in policing and Black minds in schooling. The most recent series had over 30,000 learners from across the nation.

Wood’s research focuses on racial equity in education with a specific focus on early childhood education and community colleges. In particular, his research examines contributors to positive outcomes for boys and men of color.  Dr. Wood has delivered over 2,000 scholarly professional and conference presentations. His research has been featured by NBC, New York Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, Huffington Post, Fortune Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, C-SPAN, and National Press Club. Dr. Wood has authored over 180 publications, including 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and 16 books. Wood is ranked by Education Week as one of the top 50 scholars and public influencers in the field of education.

Wood is the co-sponsor of AB740 along with the Children’s Advocacy Institute. This law was authored by Assembly member McCarty and based on Wood’s research. AB 740 requires school officials to contact a foster child’s court appointed attorney and social worker prior to suspensions. Wood also serves as an advisory board member for Promises2Kids, a non-profit organization that provides over 3,000 current and former foster youth in San Diego County with the tools, opportunities, and guidance they need to grow into healthy, happy and successful adults. His passion for foster children and youth is informed by his own experience as a former foster child and transracial adoptee who was raised in a large foster home.

Dr. Wood is a former recipient of the Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Fellowship from which he served as research fellow at the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research (SIHER), Stanford University. Wood received his PhD in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies with an emphasis in Higher Education and master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education from Arizona State University (ASU). He also holds a master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership with a concentration in Student Affairs and a bachelor’s degree in Black History and Politics from California State University, Sacramento. Luke is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. He is a father of three children and husband to Dr. Idara Essien.

Key Academic and Leadership Accomplishments

(Note: Leadership is a collaboration, all accomplishments are a function of cross-divisional teams). 

  • Serving as the Co-Chair of the university-wide strategic plan titled “Transcending borders, Transforming lives). [Now Co-Chair of the Plan’s Implementation].
  • Serving as Co-Chair of the SDSU Revenue Generation tiger team that made significant advances to improve the fiscal health of the institution.
  • Advancing a university-wide Ethnic Studies requirement for all students (prior to AB 1460);
  • Advancing a cross-departmental requirements that all criminal justice majors have required coursework on race relations and policing;
  • Leading a significant overhaul of the faculty hiring process to include implicit bias training, pool certification, inclusion representatives, and significant modifications in search criteria for all tenured/tenure-track faculty searches;
  • Advancing new policies and practices in university systems to ensure pronouns are included on class rosters and that name fields default to chosen name;
  • Advancing a new qualitative question to all course evaluations focused on the ability to foster a welcoming environment for diverse learners;
  • Advancing the land acknowledgement statement to honor SDSU’s residence on Kumeyaay land and requiring this statement to be included in all course syllabi.
  • Co-Leading an overhaul of SDSU’s admissions process to prioritize participation in college-readiness programs; enrollment in local high schools; an ability to thrive in a diverse environment; indicators of school-level diversity (i.e., percent students of color, English language learners); and tribal affiliation. 
  • Co-Leading the establishment of enhanced admissions policies for transfer students, resulting in special admissions consideration for community college students who have participated in categorial programs such as UMOJA, Puente, CalWorks, and EOPS.
  • Leading the establishment of SDSU microsites. This program enables community college students to remain at their local community college while completing their final two-years of coursework through SDSU.
  • Advancing the establishment of five new cultural centers, including: Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Center, Native Student Resource Center, Undocumented Resource Center, Center for Transformative Justice, and Latinx Resource Center (all with 4 FTE staff).
  • Advancing the expansion of three existing cultural centers, including: Black Resource Center, PRIDE Center, Women’s Resource Center, and Center for Intercultural Relations (moved to 4 FTE staff).
  • Coining and Advancing the term “Racelighting” to refer to interpersonal experiences with race-based gaslighting with Frank Harris III.
  • Securing $2 million through 40 separate research, evaluation, and developmental projects, including funding from the National Science Foundation, College Futures Foundation, and Gates Foundation.
  • Serving as Chair-Elect for the Council for the Study of Community Colleges. This is the leading professional association for researchers and practitioners who conduct research on America’s community colleges.


I am particularly proud of how our Division rose to the challenges of COVID-19. We led all health-related campus efforts through Student Health Services, including testing, isolations, quarantines, and vaccinations (with 96% of students vaccinated). We also maintained residence hall operations for 2,200 students who needed continued housing during the pandemic (now back to 6,100). The Division also provides oversight to Associated Students (A.S.), a student-directed auxiliary with a 30 million budget. As a former A.S. leader from my own days in college, working directly with our student leaders is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my position.”