Air University posthumously publishes Col. Lunardi's thesis on diversity, inclusion

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

Earlier this month, Air University Press posthumously published Col. Tara Lunardi’s thesis, “General Officer Gender Diversity: How Do We Get from Here to There,” honoring the late colonel’s commitment to inclusivity and equality within the military.

Lunardi died Feb. 7, 2024, following a courageous battle with cancer, and left a legacy of nearly three decades of service, characterized by her advocacy for gender diversity and her dedication to the Office of Special Investigations mission.

According to Brig. Gen. Amy Bumgarner, OSI’s commander, the release of Lunardi’s thesis is not only a tribute to her colleague’s career but will also inspire tomorrow’s leaders. 

"I am incredibly proud to see Tara’s thesis published,” Bumgarner said. “Her work will serve as a guiding light for future leaders, giving life to her vision for a more inclusive military as it continues to inspire and drive change."

Lunardi’s thesis is the 14th chapter in a collection of articles by various military leaders, titled "One Team, One Fight: Diversity + Inclusion in the Department of the Air Force." 

In total, the collection includes 22 papers, divided into categories that address topics like gender identity, sexual orientation, gender disparity and diversity in practice, among others. Lunardi's work focuses on gender disparity, providing her perspective on the barriers women and minorities faced in the Department of the Air Force’s general officer ranks at the time. 

The publication was also dedicated Lunardi, beginning on page 4 it reads, “[Lunardi] unabashedly exemplified the true spirit of inclusion and belonging during her twenty-seven years of distinguished service.”

Lt. Gen Marc Sasseville, Vice Chief of the National Guard noted in his foreword that the “publication reflects thoughtful research from across the Total Force, demonstrating the value of diversity and inclusion in our ranks and offering actionable recommendations for achieving this objective.”
As OSI’s deputy commander and co-chair of OSI’s D+I Council, Lunardi’s leadership and advocacy were instrumental in removing barriers to success for servicemembers, said Jakki Dixon, OSI’s Chief D+I Officer, who co-chaired the council alongside Lunardi. 

Lunardi wrote her award-winning thesis during a yearlong stint at the U.S. Air Force War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, in 2016, and went on to earn multiple accolades including the Commandant’s Award for the top overall research paper. 

In the thesis, beginning on page 319, Lunardi highlights the importance of diversity in fostering innovation and calls for a cultural shift to embrace a broader range of skills and perspectives in leadership.

“Working closely with Tara, I got to witness her dedication to diversity and inclusion firsthand,” Bumgarner said. “Her thesis captures the essence of that vision. As OSI’s deputy commander, her advice and leadership were indispensable to me, and her thesis is a continuation of the work she championed every day."

In the end, it may be best summed in Lunardi’s own words, “Diverse leadership will help to armor the force against groupthink, unlock innovative ideas and effectively guide the future force with a wider aperture for viable solutions to wicked problems,” she wrote. “Courageous leaders at all levels must continue to challenge paradigms, unafraid of asking tough, probing questions—even if that means potentially offending the sensibilities of the majority."

To read more about Lunardi's insights and vision in greater detail, click here to read the full thesis. 

Editor’s note: The opinions, conclusions and recommendations expressed in the thesis are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of the associated organizations or the views of the Air University Press, Air University, United States Air Force, Department of Defense or any other U.S. government agency.