Dnika J. Travis

In Funded Scholars
Dnika J. Travis
Dnika J. Travis

Dnika J.



Senior Director and Center Leader

Professional Bio

Dr. Dnika J. Travis specializes in leadership and organizational change. Her work centers on how to develop effective communication practices for cultivating inclusive, quality-driven organizations. She has published on employee voice (i.e., speaking up in the workplace), employee engagement and retention, workforce diversity and inclusion, and management of human service organizations. Currently, Dr. Travis’ research projects focus on understanding ways to mitigate health disparities through workforce development. For example, Dr. Travis was awarded a grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to investigate the barriers childcare providers encounter in seeking mental health treatment. She is also the principal investigator on a research project that examines market rate data for the State of Texas to help ensure equal access to childcare, particularly for underserved populations.

Dr. Travis also has served as an organizational consultant in nonprofit, public, and corporate sectors. In these settings, she has facilitated workshops and trainings on communicating effectively, promoting diversity, and leading organizational change efforts.

In addition to serving as an assistant professor at University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work, Dr. Travis is a faculty affiliate with the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. Dr. Travis earned her PhD from University of Southern California, MSW from University of Michigan, and BA from Hampton University.

Project Description

In health care organizations, employees, particularly direct care providers, have a pulse on the needs of clients and the external environment in which their organizations function. Global shifts in the demographic composition of the workforce, external and internal pressures, economic downturns and upturns all have the potential to have considerable impacts on health care organizations. Needed, then, is a diverse, proactive and well-trained workforce equipped with communication skills and an organizational structure that enhances innovation and quality in response to such changes. This project aims to address this need by: (1) distinguishing among different definitions and models of diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence in primary care settings, (2) classifying types of communication practices applied in these models, and (3) examining whichamong the communication practices most effectively foster diversity, engagement, and quality. To this end, this project will conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to identify best communication practices for cultivating optimal diversity climates, workforce engagement, and quality of care in primary care settings. Empirical (quantitative and qualitative) studies from the past 15 years will be evaluated for inclusion in the study. Findings should be particularly useful to organizational leaders and providers at all levels who are interested in most effectively fostering diversity, engagement, and quality.

My New Connections Experience

My application to the RWJF New Connections Program was driven by the opportunity to inform practice on critical health care workforce issues. Specifically, I was energized by the Human Capital Team’s charge to find innovative ways to develop and retain a diverse workforce equip with the training and skills to advance quality care in health care settings. I also was excited by the unique opportunities to receive hands-on mentoring, expand my professional network, and build highly relevant scholarship in my areas of interest.

Being a New Connections grantee has undoubtedly advanced my career. Through the program, I am able to maximize my contribution to emergent literature relating to how organizational processes impact diversity, engagement, and quality. As such, I will be able to identify and examine best communication practices for cultivating optimal diversity climates, workforce engagement, and quality of care in primary care settings. Also, I am thrilled about the opportunity to work in partnership with and learn from the Human Capital Team. Engaging with scholars on critical health and health care workforce issues will certainly advance my research and help foster collaborative opportunities to impact the field. Overall, I am most humbled by the opportunity to be among a community of researchers committed to serving the health and health care needs for all Americans.

Research Interests

  • Initiating and navigating organizational change • Building communication and leadership skills in health and human service organizations • Promoting inclusion and workforce diversity
The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator,
  • Award Year: 2011
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Human Capital
  • Project Name: Effective communication practices as the building blocks for diversity, engagement, and quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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