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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Jeffrey Gill
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Educational Leadership, Research and Technology
Title: From Crisis to Stability: A Case Study of Presidential Leadership at a Christian College
Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer, Chair
Dr. Donna Talbot
Dr. Thomas Edgington
Date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
2401 Sangren Hall
Despite healthy growth in past decades, in a time of national and global economic instability small, private Christian colleges now find themselves in a precarious position. Leading effectively in such colleges and universities in a time of external and/or internal crisis is a great challenge.
This research is about a small, Christian college with documented evidence of having survived two significant enrollment and financial crises (early 1990s and 2008-09). It is now stable, all under the leadership of a president who served during the nineteen year time period of crisis and stability. The purpose of this study is to investigate how this president, through his leadership attributes, practices, and achievements, led the college from crisis to stability.
Participants in this study are administrators, faculty, and staff employed by Grace College and Seminary and those who serve (or have served) as volunteers on the Board of Trustees during the period of 1995 through 2012.
A survey has been created identifying seven categories from the literature of effective presidential leadership in higher education. In each of these areas there are eight statements, scored using a Likert scale. Additionally, there are two open-ended statements regarding the president’s leadership during the two times of crisis. Responses from 168 stakeholders are included, a 65.4% response rate. Five interviews, one from each stakeholder group and the president are also conducted. Another data source is the president’s three-year goals and self-evaluations.
Data reveals being Relationally Strong and a Good Fit as the top categories of effectiveness for this president. Being a Developer of a New Culture is the overall lowest leadership category, involving both low mean scores and low open-ended responses, while being a Team Builder has moderate mean scores, but the highest number of negative comments.
Overall conclusions drawn are this president: 1) functions as an adaptive leader, 2) builds trust through his integrity and relationships, and 3) uses times of crisis to institute change and innovation. This study adds to the literature by pointing out the importance of an adaptive leadership approach, strong credibility, and relational skills when leading through crisis to stability in a small Christian college.