Dissertation Abstract

A Sociological Multiple Life History Study of Three Female Former Community College Presidents in a Southeastern System

Publication Number:  AAT9974571
Author:  Ballentine, Angela Rene
School:  North Carolina State University
Date:  2000
Pages:  240
Subject:  Higher Education, School Administration, Community Colleges, Womens Studies

A review of the literature revealed that the 1990s witnessed the largest increase in the numbers of female presidents of higher education institutions than in any decade in history. The literature has established a need to present more personal and historical information about women who have served as community college presidents. No recent qualitative study has presented the career development experiences of female former community college presidents. Nor has a life history approach been used to examine the factors and circumstances influencing female presidents' decision to seek the community college presidency. If women are to continue increasing their representation in senior leadership of higher education institutions, understanding the career development experiences of women who have served in that role is important.

This study's purpose was to examine the career development experiences of three female former presidents who were the first to have served in a southeastern community college system. The methodology selected for the study was sociological multiple life history. Through in-depth interviews, the three former presidents shared their self-perceptions of their career development experiences and identified the factors and circumstances that influenced their pursuit of the presidency.

The stories were presented in the participants' own words, so as to capture the essence of the narratives and to add continuity and cohesiveness to the retelling of their experiences. Data generated from the interviews revealed the following themes: the early years, representing home, parents, and family; their college and university experiences; marriage and family relationships; career paths; role models and mentors; the development of a sense of self and values; their definitions of leadership; barriers they encountered; and their strategies for success.

Major findings were that a combination of family support, educational nurturing, the development of self-confidence and self-esteem, and the resilience to succeed despite impediments they encountered as adults were important influences in their career success. Especially important were mentoring and role modeling relationships because they helped the former presidents develop self-esteem and self-confidence. Barriers, such as gender stereotyping and the selection of sameness, were also found to inhibit women's access to senior leadership positions.

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