Date of Award

Spring 5-19-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joseph Stetar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Martin Finkelstein, Ph.D.


student affairs, career advancement, mentorship, university leadership, president


This study was inspired by a simple question: Why are there so few women leaders at the highest levels of higher education? The 2017 American Council on Education (ACE) American College President Study reported that only 30.1 % of presidencies were held by women in 2016. As the retirements of institutional leaders upsurge in the next few years, there will be increased demand for leadership in colleges and universities. Higher education needs more women prepared to assume executive leadership roles, both to fill the openings from anticipated presidential retirements and to provide their leadership as decision makers at all levels of the institution. With 49% of Chief Student Affairs Officers being women leaders, it could, in the future, serve as a pipeline to institutional leadership for women. Currently, the majority of university presidents are coming from the academic divisions of institutions. As the need for the services provided by student affairs continues to develop and grow, there is opportunity for institutional leadership to shift. This qualitative study used narrative inquiry to capture the experiences of 10 women Chief Student Affairs Officers from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions of the United States. The purpose of the study was to learn more about their career trajectories and their professional aspirations. Four central themes emerged from the stories shared by the participants: (1) mentorship, (2) strategies for advancement, (3) the role of family, and (4) being a woman in the field of student affairs.