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Ascension to the American college presidency: A study of female presidents of public universities and community colleges in select Southern states

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Tracey B Carter
Abstract:
Male-dominated presidential profiles are evident in all 16 member states of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), including in the select states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky. This unique study presents the low number of women presidents currently presiding over public community colleges and four-year public institutions within each SREB member state. Utilizing a qualitative research design, 13 women college presidents from the three select states were interviewed to determine their pathways to the presidency as well as the personal and professional factors that contributed to their successful ascension to the presidency. The findings indicate the premier career pathway to becoming a college/university president continues to be the traditional academic route. Most participants held the title of Chief Academic Officer/Provost immediately prior to their appointment as president. The findings also indicate the most common personal factors contributing to the participants' successful ascension to the presidency were people orientation and respect for others, education through attainment of a doctorate as well as professional development activities such as the ACE Fellows Program, and persistence/determination/hard work. This study found the most common professional factors contributing to the participants' success were academic preparation/education, job experiences and opportunities, and professional networks. These findings are consistent with prior research studies on female college presidents' successful ascension to the presidency. Search committees, aspiring women presidents, and other interested higher education constituents should examine this study's findings in order to develop effective ways to close higher education's executive leadership gap as well as diversify today's presidential leadership.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER Page

I. INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................... 1

Background of the Study ............................................................................ 1 Statement of the Problem ........................................................................... 3 Purpose of the Study .................................................................................. 4 Significance of the Study ........................................................................... 5 Research Questions .................................................................................... 6 Limitations of the Study ............................................................................. 7 Definitions of Terms .................................................................................. 8

II. LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................... 13

Overview of Definitions of Diversity ......................................................... 14 Legal Development of Diversity in Higher Education ................................ 15 Demographic Overview of the Executive and Administrative Leadership of Today’s Higher Education Institutions ................................................... 16 Executive Leadership in General ....................................................... 16 Statistical Overview of Women as College Presidents ................ 20 Women as College Presidents at Minority-Serving Institutions ......................................................................... 21 Black Women as College Presidents at Majority Institutions......................................................................... 22 Black Women as Community College Presidents............... 24 Future Outlook Regarding Women and Ethnic Minorities as College Presidents ...................................................................... 25 Senior Administrative Leadership in General .................................... 26 Demographic Overview of Today’s Community College Presidents ........... 28 Gender .......................................................................................... 30 Race and Ethnicity ............................................................................ 30 Age .......................................................................................... 31 Successful Pathways to the American College Presidency .......................... 31 Community College Presidents’ Pathways ......................................... 32 Minority Women’s Presidential Pathways ......................................... 34

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CHAPTER Page

Personal and Professional Factors Contributing to Successful Presidencies 37 Leadership Challenges for Women College Presidents ............................... 38 Key Attributes/Qualities for Current and Emerging College Presidents ...... 39 Recommendations to Diversify the Presidential Leadership in Higher Education .......................................................................................... 43 Community College Graduate Degree Programs and Professional Development Opportunities ............................................................... 43 Recruitment and Retention of Women and Minority College Presidents ............................................................................. 47 Outsiders – Those Outside of Academia ............................................ 48 Summary .......................................................................................... 49

III. METHODOLOGY .................................................................................... 51

Research Design ........................................................................................ 51 Population, Sample, and Sample Selection ................................................. 55 Instrumentation .......................................................................................... 57 Data Collection Procedures ........................................................................ 58 Review of Research Questions ................................................................... 62 Analysis of Data......................................................................................... 62 Validity and Reliability .............................................................................. 65 Internal and External Validity ............................................................ 65 Reliability ......................................................................................... 65

IV. PRESENTATION OF DATA AND RESULTS ......................................... 67

Statistical Overview: Women Presidents of Public Community Colleges and Four-Year Public Institutions within the 16 SREB Member States ....... 68 Overall Demographic Summary of Participants .......................................... 74 Demographic Profile of Participants – Personal Background ............. 74 Demographic Profile of Participants – Educational Background ........ 77 Demographic Profile of Participants – Career History/Professional Background ....................................................................................... 82

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CHAPTER Page

Profiles of Individual Participants .............................................................. 85 April’s Profile ................................................................................... 85 Brenda’s Profile ............................................................................... 92 Christy’s Profile ............................................................................... 99 Debra’s Profile .................................................................................. 106 Ellen’s Profile ................................................................................... 111 Felisha’s Profile ................................................................................ 117 Gayle’s Profile .................................................................................. 125 Helen’s Profile .................................................................................. 131 Ida’s Profile ....................................................................................... 137 Jackie’s Profile .................................................................................. 143 Kathy’s Profile .................................................................................. 152 Lisa’s Profile ..................................................................................... 161 Michelle’s Profile .............................................................................. 167

V. SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH .............................................................................. 174

Summary .......................................................................................... 174 Emergent Themes from Interviews and Demographic Questionnaires ........ 175 Career Pathways ........................................................................................ 176 Important People, Events, and Opportunities .............................................. 178 People .......................................................................................... 178 Family ........................................................................................ 178 Mentors/Role Models ................................................................. 179 College/University Presidents..................................................... 179 Events/Opportunities ......................................................................... 180 Personal Factors ......................................................................................... 180 People Orientation and Respect for People ........................................ 181 Education and Professional Development Activities .......................... 181 Persistence/Determination/Hard Work .............................................. 182 Professional Factors ................................................................................... 182 Academic Preparation/Education ....................................................... 183 Job Experiences/Opportunities .......................................................... 183 Professional Networks ....................................................................... 184 Important Attributes/Qualities for Successful Presidencies ......................... 184 Personal and Professional Challenges ......................................................... 185 Conclusions .......................................................................................... 185 Recommendations for Future Research ...................................................... 189

REFERENCES .......................................................................................... 192

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APPENDICES

A. Interview Protocol ............................................................................. 207 B. Smith’s Permission to Use Interview Protocol ................................... 209 C. IRB Approval .................................................................................... 211 D. Participation Letter ............................................................................ 213 E. Informed Consent Form..................................................................... 216 F. Demographic Questionnaire .............................................................. 218

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Background of the Study

Higher education is seen as “the gateway to economic prosperity and quality of life” in the United States (Smith, 2003, p. 1). Higher education also plays a critical role in shaping the culture of societies (Kienle & Loyd, 2005). All “organizations [including higher education institutions] must adapt not only to structural changes in society to become more competitive but also to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in society” (Diversity, Leadership, and Organizational Culture in Higher Education, 2006, p. 27). Moreover, it “is incumbent upon postsecondary institutions to train the leaders of tomorrow to lead in a world without boundaries, and to be able to embrace and promote the diversity of this new world stage” (Kienle & Loyd, 2005, p. 580). It has been stated that “Justice Powell’s discussion of the diversity rationale in Bakke may have been a recognition of the emerging significance of diversity as a social force destined to alter institutional environments in the United States, especially in higher education” (Diversity, Leadership, and Organizational Culture in Higher Education, 2006, p. 23). In general, diversity is viewed as “inherently good” (Diversity, Leadership, and Organizational Culture in Higher Education, 2006, p. 34). Thus, there is a current focus on the use of the diversity rationale to alter the leadership and organizational

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culture in higher education (Diversity, Leadership, and Organizational Culture in Higher Education, 2006). Men dominate as executive leaders of today’s higher education institutions. This same male-dominated presidential profile is evident in all 16 member states of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), which includes the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia (Southern Regional Education Board, 2009). For example, five (14%) of the 35 colleges and universities under the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, Georgia’s higher education state governing board, are currently presided over by women (Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, 2009a, 2009b). Moreover, four (17%) of the 23 combined public universities under the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Mississippi’s higher education state governing board, and community and junior colleges under the Mississippi State Board for Community and Junior Colleges, are currently led by women (Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, 2009a, 2009b, 2009c; Mississippi State Board for Community & Junior Colleges, 2009). In addition, four (17%) of the 23 combined state universities and community colleges under the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Tennessee’s higher education state coordinating board, are currently presided over by women (Tennessee Higher Education Commission, 2009a, 2009b). Of the SREB states contiguous to Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky have the highest percentage of women who have successfully ascended to the collegiate

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presidential ranks. In Alabama, 11 (31%) of their 35 combined public universities and community colleges are currently headed by women (Alabama Commission on Higher Education, 2009a, 2009b). In Kentucky, seven (29%) of their 24 combined public universities and community colleges are currently headed by women (Kentucky Community & Technical College System, 2009; Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, 2009). Statement of the Problem When demographics reveal that today’s college student population, i.e., the millennial generation, is the “most racially and ethnically diverse in U.S. history, . . . it is time for the leadership of American higher education to begin to reflect the populations [it] serve[s]” (Tatum, 2008, p. 11). However, the vast majority of current sitting college and university presidents across the United States are white males (Tatum, 2008). In addition, a significant number of these male college presidents will be retiring from their executive positions in the upcoming years, causing an executive leadership crisis (ACE, 2008; Cowen, 2008; Tatum, 2008). In fact, some researchers are questioning how this executive leadership gap in higher education is going to be filled (ACE, 2008; Muzyka, 2004; Thomas, 2004). “Early patriarchal traditions contribute to the overrepresentation of men in chief executive leadership positions in higher education in comparison to women” (Smith, 2003, p. 1). Moreover, generally, “leadership positions in education are held by males, with prevailing social perspectives supporting the notion that men belong in those leadership positions” (p. 1). However, the American Council on Education (ACE) has

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initiated a national movement to diversify the presidential leadership, in terms of gender, within higher education throughout the United States (ACE, 2008; Renick, 2008). As a result of men having been more successful in ascending to the college presidential level than women throughout the United States, including in the Southern Regional Education Board member states, a significant amount of literature on successful leadership in higher education is from a male perspective (Smith, 2003). In fact, current literature shows that “Until recently, women’s perspectives were not included in discussions of leadership in higher education. To fill this void, the stories and perspectives of women at the CEO level elucidate paths to successful leadership in higher education” (Smith, 2003, p. 6). Who better to ask than current women presidents of public universities and community colleges in the South about their successful ascension to the presidency in order to help resolve this pressing leadership issue? The stories and perspectives of women who have successfully attained a presidency in higher education, especially in the South, are necessary in order for there to be diverse perspectives on successful ascension to the presidency in higher education. This study addressed this research gap. Purpose of the Study This qualitative study specifically focused on the ascension to the presidency of currently sitting women presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within the Southern states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky. The purpose of this study was tri-fold: (1) to determine the current number of women presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within each of

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the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) member states; (2) to determine the pathways currently sitting women presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within the Southern states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky followed to successfully ascend to the presidency; and (3) to identify the personal and professional factors that contributed to these women college presidents’ successful ascension to the presidency. Significance of the Study An extensive search on the Internet by the researcher revealed no comprehensive listing solely of current women college presidents within the United States. Moreover, an extensive search on the Internet by the researcher did not reveal a public document that displayed the number of women presidents within any of the SREB member states, except for Virginia. However, the listing of “Virginia Women College Presidents” on the Virginia Network’s website was from 2007, and was thus outdated (Virginia Women College Presidents, 2007). Therefore, this study filled this gap by providing data on the current number of women presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within each member state of the SREB. In addition, as noted above, there has been a dearth of literature regarding the journeys and perspectives of women college presidents on their pathways to the American college presidency (Smith, 2003). Therefore, this study has added to that body of knowledge by specifically inquiring into the pathways followed by currently sitting women presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within the Southern states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky. Also, this study identified the

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personal and professional factors that contributed to these women presidents’ successful ascension to the college presidency. Moreover, this study provides current higher education leaders, aspiring women and ethnic minority presidents, as well as boards of trustees and search committees responsible for selecting campus presidents within the SREB member states, with key information to assist these constituent groups with closing the pending executive leadership gap. Subsequently, if the same constituent groups in all 50 states study the information gained from this study, women and minorities will have the opportunity to achieve a more representative proportion of collegiate presidential positions in the future. Moreover, the information gained from this study will assist with the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Spectrum Initiative, which is a national initiative to diversify and broaden the executive leadership talent in higher education throughout the United States in terms of race and gender (ACE, 2008; Renick, 2008). Research Questions 1. How many women presidents currently preside over public community colleges and four-year public institutions within each of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) member states? 2. What pathways did currently sitting women presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within the Southern states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky take to successfully ascend to the presidency?

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3. What personal factors contributed to the successful ascension to the presidency of currently sitting women presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within the Southern states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky? 4. What professional factors contributed to the successful ascension to the presidency of currently sitting women presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within the Southern states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky? Limitations of the Study First, although the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) member states include Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia (Southern Regional Education Board, 2009), the current study on women college presidents focused only on select Southern states, which include Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky. Tennessee was selected as a state because the researcher resides in Tennessee. In addition, the researcher had an interest in studying two states contiguous to Tennessee that had the highest percentages of currently sitting women college presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions as compared to Tennessee. As previously stated above, Alabama and Kentucky are the two states that meet the researcher’s interest. Also, despite there being more than two states contiguous to Tennessee, the researcher wanted the potential sample size to be manageable as the researcher conducted structured interviews of all women college presidents who

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consented to participate in the current study. Therefore, because the current potential sample size with the three selected states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky was 22, only women presidents in these three Southern states were examined in this study. Second, this study only included currently sitting women college presidents within the selected Southern states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky identified by the researcher between July 11, 2009 and July 18, 2009 through the use of the Internet. Therefore, former women college presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within these three states were not interviewed because (1) the researcher did not have current contact information such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all former women presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within these three states, and (2) the researcher focused on the perspectives of current women college presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within the Southern states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky in order to obtain the most up-to-date information available from these women collegiate presidents. Third, this study only included currently sitting women college presidents of public community colleges and four-year public institutions within the three selected states. No women presidents of public two-year technical colleges or directors of public technology centers were included. Definitions of Terms

The following definitions of terms guided this study: ACE: An acronym for “American Council on Education.”

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African-American: For the purposes of this study, the term African American refers to one’s racial/ethnic minority group and is the preferred term used by the researcher. Throughout the literature, other authors used both terms, African American and Black, to refer to the same group of people. However, the current researcher uses the term African-American, unless the author of the research being cited used the term “Black.” Caucasian: For the purposes of this study, the term Caucasian refers to one’s racial/ethnic minority group and is the preferred term used by the researcher. Throughout the literature, other authors used both terms, Caucasian and White, to refer to the same group of people. However, the current researcher uses the term Caucasian, unless the author of the research being cited used the term “White.” College Presidents: Chief Executive Officers of public community colleges and four-year public institutions, but does not include presidents of public two-year technical colleges or directors of public technology centers. Currently Sitting: Any president presiding over a public community college or four-year public institution who was identified by the researcher through an Internet search conducted between July 11, 2009 and July 18, 2009. Dean of Instruction: Dean of Instruction was one of the first names originally given to chief academic officers. However, they are known today as Vice President for Academic Affairs. Diversity: Status characteristics such as race/ethnicity, gender, and religious differences that make people different (Diversity, Leadership, and Organizational Culture

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in Higher Education, 2006), and also includes a wide variety of other characteristics, such as age, educational background, marital status, geographic location, income, and parental status (“Affirmative Action and Diversity,” 2007). However, in this study, diversity focuses primarily on status characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, and gender. Executive Leader: Any person who holds the position of president at a college or university (Smith, 2003). Minority: Gender and ethnic minorities in the higher education setting and includes women, Blacks, and all other ethnic minority groups (Thomas, 2004). Non-Traditional: Different, unconventional, and/or uncommon pathways to the presidency. Pathways: Career choices; professional positions; and/or job titles held prior to becoming a college president. Personal Factors: Factors that are personal in nature including, but not limited to, the following: personal values and beliefs; healthy habits, including exercise and sleep; entertainment, hobbies, and recreation; spiritual habits/prayer; family; race/ethnicity; gender; role models; drive; determination; personality; leadership style; and/or other personal attributes. President: Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or the person in the highest executive leadership position within a public community college or public university setting who is referred to as “President” or “Chancellor.” This includes “Interim Presidents” since they are referred to as “Presidents,” and they are the highest officials who preside over institutions until a permanent president is hired. However, “President” does not include

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directors of technology centers or presidents/chancellors of technical colleges (Smith, 2003). Professional Development: Developmental opportunities/experiences including, but not limited to, formal leadership trainings such as the ACE Fellows Program, Harvard Millennium Executive Leadership Institute, League of Innovation, National Institute for Leadership Development, or other professional training and/or learning opportunities. Professional Factors: Factors that are professional in nature including, but not limited to, the following: education/academic credentials; job titles or positions; career- related experiences; mentors; supervisory support; institutional support; professional development opportunities; networking; and/or other professional attributes. Professional Networks: A group of professionals who provide encouragement, networking opportunities, mentoring, job information, and/or who may be very influential persons in the community. This includes women's organizations, including business and professional women’s groups. Role Models: People who are already in a particular job or position that a person has a future interest in. These people may be observed or actually shadowed, such as watching and/or shadowing a currently sitting president. Role models can be positive or negative. Senior Administrator: Any person who holds the position of dean or higher at two-year and four-year colleges and universities (Payne & Hyle, 2001). South: For the purposes of this study, South refers to the three selected Southern states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky.

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SREB: An acronym for “Southern Regional Education Board” and refers to the Southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia (Southern Regional Education Board, 2009). Traditional: For purposes of this study, traditional means the most common or conventional route/pathway to the presidency, generally through the academic ranks. Upper-level Administrator: Used synonymously with “Senior Administrator” and refers to any person who holds the position of dean, vice president, executive vice president, provost, or president at two-year and four-year colleges and universities (Smith, 2003; Tennessee Board of Regents, 2007). Women of Color: Used synonymously with “Minority” and includes women who are members of the following racial/ethnic minority groups: African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American, and multiple race (American Council on Education, 2007).

CHAPTER II LITERATURE REVIEW This literature review discusses diversity, looks at literature related to the American college presidency and research related to diversity in the American college presidency. In order to include the most recent information on diversity as well as the American college presidency, this literature review focuses on research published during the last ten years. The literature review begins by exploring the various definitions of diversity. The next section discusses the legal development of diversity in higher education, including a brief discussion of the leading U.S. Supreme Court decisions related to diversity. In addition, this literature review provides a demographic overview of the executive and administrative leadership of today’s higher education institutions as well as presents a demographic overview of today’s community college presidents. This literature review also includes sections on the successful pathways to the American college presidency, personal and professional factors contributing to successful presidencies, as well as leadership challenges for women college presidents. This literature review also provides an overview of key attributes/qualities for current and emerging college presidents. This literature review concludes by providing recommendations for diversifying the presidential leadership in higher education according to current literature as well as

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presents recent research on why today’s higher education institutions need to reflect diversity among the presidential ranks. Overview of Definitions of Diversity Diversity is often seen as recognizing differences among individuals in a positive manner. In fact, “diversity recognizes that everyone is different and that different backgrounds should be respected. People exhibit status characteristics including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, language, and religion that identify them as different” (Diversity, Leadership, and Organizational Culture in Higher Education, 2006, p. 25). “As such, diversity promotes a positive attitude toward difference” (p. 25). In addition, the Diversity Dictionary defines diversity as follows: a situation that includes representation of multiple (ideally all) groups within a prescribed environment, such as a university or a workplace. This word most commonly refers to differences between cultural groups, although it is also used to describe differences within cultural groups, [for example,] diversity within the Asian-American culture [that] includes Korean Americans and Japanese Americans. An emphasis on accepting and respecting cultural differences by recognizing that no one culture is intrinsically superior to another underlies the current usage of the term (Diversity, Leadership, and Organizational Culture in Higher Education, 2006, p. 25). Thus, diversity can reflect differences between and within cultural groups. However, in this study, diversity focuses primarily on status characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, and gender.

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Legal Development of Diversity in Higher Education A review of the literature on the legal background surrounding achieving diversity in higher education institutions revealed that the increased representation of historically underrepresented populations in postsecondary, graduate, and professional schools “is largely attributable to Congressional and state legislation through affirmative action programs or, more contemporaneously, diversity plans” (Igwebuike, 2006, p. 189). In fact, the “expansion of higher education in the 1950s and 1960s was a response to a mix of state and federal initiatives that intensified the demands on higher education for enhancing the representation of ethnic and racial minorities” (Diversity, Leadership, and Organizational Culture in Higher Education, 2006, p. 35). In addition, the “earliest initiatives to increase minority access on predominantly white campuses . . . were prompted by desegregation mandates as well as social justice concerns grounded in the democratic principles of equal opportunity and equality” (Diversity, Leadership, and Organizational Culture in Higher Education, 2006, p. 35). Thus, the “entry of racial and ethnic minorities to higher education fueled a series of culture wars and raised questions about the cultural alignment of higher education with the needs of a culturally diverse society” (p. 35-36). Higher education affirmative action case law has also played a major role in increasing diversity in the higher education arena. Specifically, Regents of the Board of California v. Bakke (1978), Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), and Gratz v. Bollinger (2003) have all played a leading role in the current legal framework surrounding diversity in higher education (“Affirmative Action and Diversity,” 2007; Igwebuike, 2006).

Full document contains 234 pages
Abstract: Male-dominated presidential profiles are evident in all 16 member states of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), including in the select states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky. This unique study presents the low number of women presidents currently presiding over public community colleges and four-year public institutions within each SREB member state. Utilizing a qualitative research design, 13 women college presidents from the three select states were interviewed to determine their pathways to the presidency as well as the personal and professional factors that contributed to their successful ascension to the presidency. The findings indicate the premier career pathway to becoming a college/university president continues to be the traditional academic route. Most participants held the title of Chief Academic Officer/Provost immediately prior to their appointment as president. The findings also indicate the most common personal factors contributing to the participants' successful ascension to the presidency were people orientation and respect for others, education through attainment of a doctorate as well as professional development activities such as the ACE Fellows Program, and persistence/determination/hard work. This study found the most common professional factors contributing to the participants' success were academic preparation/education, job experiences and opportunities, and professional networks. These findings are consistent with prior research studies on female college presidents' successful ascension to the presidency. Search committees, aspiring women presidents, and other interested higher education constituents should examine this study's findings in order to develop effective ways to close higher education's executive leadership gap as well as diversify today's presidential leadership.