Seasons of presidential leadership: A mixed-methods study contributing to a theory on institutional cycles in higher education

2007 2007

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Abstract (summary)

Studying higher education leadership is particularly useful when considered at different periods of an institution's history; the kind of leader needed to head a major college or university will be different during different time periods. An important factor in identifying a leader for any institution is finding one qualified to lead during a particular stage of institutional development. Neff and Leondar (1992) stated that deriving presidential criteria from an appraisal of an institution's present condition and future prospects was conventional wisdom in theory and largely ignored in practice.

Various writers have suggested understanding institutional cycles was important relative to changes in leadership; however, a definitive characterization or description of specific cycles did not exist in education literature. This study sought to develop a model for higher education based on life-cycle theory as illustrated in business models. Using configurations of institutional characteristics, this study considered various public, not-for-profit institutions over a forty-year period and provided a general framework for understanding the nature of institutional cycles for colleges and universities.

The general model developed for the study included seven periods across institutional life cycles: (1) formation, (2) development, (3) growth, (4) constancy, (5) decline, (6) renewal, and (7) dissolution. All institutions included in this study were founded prior to the beginning of the study period (1965) and all still existed at the end of the study period (2005); therefore, formation, development, and dissolution were not fully explored. The other four periods were evident in the enrollment patterns observed for the institutions included in the study.

Five general enrollment patterns were identified and defined: (1)  Constant Growth, (2) No Growth, (3)  Variable Growth, (4) Decline, and (5)  Unstable. Those patterns resulted from of a variety of both internal and external factors which influenced the nature of each institution. Understanding institutional characteristics that contribute to those patterns may be useful in identifying the type of leader needed for a specific time and purpose.

Indexing (details)

School administration;
Higher education
0514: School administration
0745: Higher education
Identifier / keyword
Education; Higher education; Institutional cycles; Leadership; Presidential leadership
Seasons of presidential leadership: A mixed-methods study contributing to a theory on institutional cycles in higher education
Christensen, Roger G.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 68/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Stick, Sheldon L.
Committee member
Brooks, David W.; Dlugosh, Larry L.; Uerling, Donald F.
The University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Educational Studies
University location
United States -- Nebraska
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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