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Educator Champions to Improve Title IX Experiences at Community Colleges

Class of 2024 Grad Leighia Fleming Finishes at the Top of Her Class, Aspires to Become a College President
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Educator Leighia Fleming wants to improve community colleges’ response to and prevention of discrimination and harassment on campuses — and address systemic changes needed to support Title IX coordinators and sexual assault survivors.

To tackle these issues in higher education, the Cal State Fullerton doctoral candidate in education delved into the unique experiences of Title IX coordinators at California’s community colleges. 

Fleming focused on coordinators who are employed to investigate sexual misconduct, develop policy, coordinate the process and develop preventative educational training. 

“I chose this topic of study because I want to create equitable college campuses free of gender-based violence,” Fleming said. “The intent was to document their experiences due to the regulation changes at federal and local levels.”

Fleming is finishing her doctoral program at the top of her class with a 4.0 GPA and will be the first in her family to hold a doctorate. She is earning a doctor of education in educational leadership with a concentration in community college leadership. 

She plans to attend her College of Education commencement ceremony this month and recently participated in the university’s Pan-Afrikan Recognition Celebration.

“Having a doctorate will provide me with opportunities to be in spaces to help disrupt and dismantle systems in higher education that are harming students,” Fleming said. “This degree is in honor of my ancestors and parents who paved the way for me to access education.” 

Doctoral candidate and Title IX coordinator Leighia Fleming
Educator Leighia Fleming at the university’s May 5 Pan-Afrikan Recognition Celebration

Fleming is the Title IX coordinator and interim dean of students at Coastline College in Fountain Valley. She earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Dominican University of California, where she was a soccer and softball student-athlete and first learned about Title IX. She also holds a master’s in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco. 

Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972, ensures that male and female students and employees in educational settings are treated equally and fairly. The law protects against discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment.

Fleming’s study aimed to answer the demands of Title IX coordinators, the impact of changing regulations on their personal and professional lives, and their perceptions of success and institutional betrayal within institutions. 

“Until we provide community colleges with the resources and tools to change the campus culture, Title IX statistics will stay as is,” said Fleming, who authored an upcoming book chapter on college sexual violence.

Her Journey to Becoming an Educational Leader

Inez Moore and doctoral candidate and Title IX coordinator Leighia Fleming
Leighia Fleming, right, who focused her research on Title IX, with her dissertation chair Inez Moore (Courtesy of Leighia Fleming)

Fleming’s dissertation chair is Inez Moore, assistant professor of educational leadership, who as a former community college dean guided her on how to create equitable policies and change in institutions. 

“Through Dr. Moore’s mentorship, I believed I was worthy and deserved a seat at the table. Having a Black female dissertation chair allowed me to feel safe and brave as I navigated the research process,” she said.

Fleming chose to pursue her Ed.D. at Cal State Fullerton because of the college’s mission to support a just, equitable and inclusive classroom, and it’s where her mother, a retired educator, received her teacher education. At CSUF, for the first time in her college tenure, she also was taught by Black professors.

“This was a moment for me because I finally felt seen in a classroom setting,” she said. 

Fleming has been involved in campus activities, including serving on the college’s inaugural Ed.D. Student Advisory Board. She is the recipient of the university’s Graduate Equity Fellowship and the college’s Dean Kirtman Fellowship for Equity-Minded Educational Leaders.

During her doctoral studies, Fleming was inspired by her professors, with some former high-ranking college administrators, to aspire to become the head of a college.

“I now have a desire to become a college president. I discovered this was my ultimate goal through the doctoral program at Cal State Fullerton,” she said. “I want to create student-centered, equitable, caring and healing colleges.”

Debra Cano Ramos