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How can an HBCU navigate a leadership transition to “be the exception”?

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Texas Southern University

The Opportunity 

At a time of leadership transition for Texas Southern University, Deutser was challenged to help take the university to the next level, propelling a 93-year-old HBCU forward through a transformation of organizational culture. 

The Human Approach

With almost a century of set notions and opinions, a contingent of the community was adverse to change. Deutser began our work with a deep appreciation of the history and pride of the university. We understood the deep connections, unique spirit and the distrust of anyone new coming into “fix their institution.” The whole of the organization was given multiple opportunities to share history, feelings and perspectives on the future. We conducted 15 workshops with various faculty, staff, administration and students to simply listen. We created psychologically safe spaces where each person could give voice to the past, present and more, to the future. 

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"Be the Exception" 


The research and listening sessions clearly showed that the shared identity and vision for the future had been lost. We shared everything we heard—without editing. It became a cathartic exercise that began the first real moments of change. As one workshop participant said, “This is my proudest day in my 41 years at this university.”

The university community became open to change when they realized that change was not being put upon them by an outside president, rather, that they were the initiators and engines for change themselves.  One theme emerged—people believed that TSU and its student body could "Be the Exception.” That became the culture and expectation that the new president set for TSU. It was then brought to life through leadership development, employee engagement and experiential design.

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The Lasting Change

We helped Texas Southern University better define and protect the things that matter most—their shared identity. We set a new standard of how people could see the university, see each other and see the future. They were no longer just one in the crowd of HBCUs, they were the exception, in a good way.