The life stories of first female presidents at selective northeast institutions of higher education a collective narrative case study

by Costa-Brown, Darlene F., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2010, 139 pages; 3412438


This qualitative collective case study, bound in feminism, culture, and leadership examined the lived experiences of 17 first female presidents in higher education to articulate and understand their stories and the fabric of their lives. Participants were asked to describe their lives as their organization’s CEO, their career paths, their family influences, mentors, and barriers they have encountered during their careers. Findings from this study indicate that a majority of the study’s participants fortuitously became presidents. While they pursued academic leadership careers, their presidencies were unintentional. All participants revealed strong family influences and mentors who encouraged them throughout their careers. Additionally, all referenced networking as an important activity for career progression. The study’s participants are transformational leaders who have positively changed their organization’s culture by participatory but direct leadership. All believe that communication is a key element of leadership and many revealed their successful communication strategies. These 17 women acknowledged that their jobs are not 40 hours a week and come with great public scrutiny. Still they have found a way to balance their public and private lives. These women have broken the glass ceiling, rising to CEOs of their organizations. They possess determination, perseverance, and a strong moral backbone. All want to be remembered as individuals who produced quality programs at their institutions.

AdviserCyd Strickland
Source TypeDissertation
Publication Number3412438

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