Term of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Daniel Calhoun

Committee Member 1

Thomas Koballa

Committee Member 2

Pamela Wells


New university presidents face many challenges when leading an institution, and it seems a daunting professional effort to prepare for the contextual problems they will face (Alexander, 2014; Siegel, 2011). Recent episodes dealing with presidential tensions at universities illustrate the difficult issues new presidents face when entering an institution. Birnbaum (1992) stated that new university presidents are most effective when they seek to offer an interpretation of institutional life using language, symbolism, and ritual. Research by Trachtenberg, Kauvar, and Bogue (2013) and Vyas (2013) noted that understanding the ethos of an institution is essential for effective presidential leadership. This research explores how new university presidents who have served at least one year and no more than three years in their first presidencies make meaning of institutional ethos and apply what they learn to frame the institution for the purpose of effective leadership. Van Manen’s hermeneutical phenomenological approach to quantitative research was utilized as the theoretical framework for this study. Interviews with 4 new university presidents served as the data source for this study. This study found that the presidents, while operating within the unique context of the institution which they preside, attended to the concepts of organizational identity, organizational culture, and organization image when seeking to formulate and promulgate an institution’s ethos. Based on the findings of the study, implications for search committees, new university presidents, search firms, and campus communities are presented since each of these groups is potentially impacted. Finally, recommendations for further research are provided for individuals who are interested in further exploring matters related to institutional ethos and new university presidents.

Research Data and Supplementary Material