Date of Award

Fall 2005

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Pink, William

Second Advisor

Riordan, Timmothy

Third Advisor

Echman, Ellen


The topic of exploring a woman's leadership experience in higher education administration has been of great interest to me for some time. As a teacher and a graduate student in Educational Policy and Leadership, I would always ask myself, why don't we see women at the top of administration in large private and public universities. My curiosity was nurtured by taking the practicum where I had an opportunity to interview and interact with a number of women faculty members from different departments on the university campus. The stories from these women faculty members plus my experience of taking women studies as a minor inspired me to focus on the case study for this dissertation. This study sought to investigate the supports and challenges that a woman associate dean encounters in her administrative role at a private coeducational university in the Midwest. A woman in the senior rank in administration was asked if she would be willing to be my participant for this study and she agreed to participate throughout this research. The study utilized the naturalistic inquiry by using three data collection strategies: observation, interviews and document analysis. Data analysis was handled through constant comparison of data, open and axial coding and the application of a feminist analytic perspective. The thematic areas: life background, career path, role conflict and ambiguity, stress and job satisfaction and future career aspirations were key in the data analysis. As a result of data analysis, immediate family, school and work supports emerged as important factors in the participant's personal growth, career choice and success in her administrative role. A series of family, school and work challenges emerged, however, to limit a woman's opportunities in attaining both tenure and promotion. It is concluded that this study serves to highlight the importance of engaging in qualitative studies when setting out an agenda for future research in different university settings and in different disciplinary areas. As this study demonstrates, such fieldwork is necessary to capture the complexities of women working in specific contexts in higher education.



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