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A Phenomenological Study of University Leadership: Exploring the Leadership Practices Used to Implement Change that Increases Student Success
Johnson, David J

2017, Doctor of Philosophy, Miami University, Educational Leadership.
There is scarce literature explaining how leaders leverage the influence necessary to change universities. This study aimed to illuminate leadership practices that seek to make universities more responsive to, and responsible for, the needs and success of students. In doing so, this research explored practices that leaders used to align a university’s diverse constituents around shared goals.

Specifically, this constructivist, phenomenological study sought to identify the essence of leadership associated with the creation and implementation of a student success model at a faith-based medium-sized institution referred to in this study by its pseudonym St. Paul University. I collected data through semi-structured interviews with 14 staff, faculty and administrators who were involved in the development of the university’s student success model, the St. Paul Pathway Program. To my surprise, this study became a remarkable exploration of 12 years of institutional change. The research participants expressed that the creation of St. Paul’s student success model was but one part of a larger story of change and transformation. To understand the St. Paul Pathway Program, it was necessary to understand a chapter of St. Paul’s history that was set in motion 12 years prior with the arrival of the University’s new president.

Although the scope of the study changed, the focus remained the same—leadership practices used to facilitate broad and deep institutional change. Faculty, staff and administrators shared rich, detailed descriptions of their experiences of the practices used to facilitate change and their analysis of the degree to which those practices catalyzed or muted action, collaboration, and positive change. In the findings, I identify several challenges for facilitating change, including: catalyzing change; generating buy-in and directing change; refining and sustaining change initiatives; engaging faculty; promoting innovation; and changing culture. Related to those challenges, I also identify lessons to inform leadership practices for facilitating change, including: (1) Context determines the appropriate leadership practices for facilitating change; no one leadership practice is best for a university at all times; (2) Change is a multi-dimensional and long-term process; change programs must align a university’s diverse constituents behind broad, forward- looking plans and synergistic priorities that result in coordinated activity; (3) Universities need to focus their change efforts not on mitigating problems but instead on pursuing mission; mission can be utilized to govern, guide, and inspire change; and (4) Presidents must utilize their position and influence to catalyze and orchestrate change, sometimes necessitating hierarchical leadership.
Elisa Abes (Committee Chair)
Perez David (Committee Member)
Shaw Mahauganee (Committee Member)
James Anthony (Committee Chair)
131 p.

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Johnson, D. (2017). A Phenomenological Study of University Leadership: Exploring the Leadership Practices Used to Implement Change that Increases Student Success . (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Johnson, David. "A Phenomenological Study of University Leadership: Exploring the Leadership Practices Used to Implement Change that Increases Student Success ." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Miami University, 2017. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 15 Dec 2017.

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Johnson, David "A Phenomenological Study of University Leadership: Exploring the Leadership Practices Used to Implement Change that Increases Student Success ." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Miami University, 2017. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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