Senior Academic Leaders’ Involvement in and Interpretation of the Presidential Transition Process at Private, Selective, Nonprofit Colleges and Universities Analyzed Through an Organizational Decision-Making Framework Open Access
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Abstract of the DissertationSenior Academic Leaders’ Involvement in and Interpretation of the Presidential Transition Process at Private, Selective, Nonprofit Colleges and Universities: Analyzed Through an Organizational Decision-Making FrameworkThis study described, interpreted, and analyzed the way in which senior academic leaders were involved in the presidential transition process at private, selective, nonprofit colleges and universities. This topic was important to study because senior academic leaders’ interpretations of organizational decision-making provides insight into the way colleges and universities deal with tension between academic values and economic forces. The study addressed one research question: What is the role of senior academic leaders (i.e., provost or vice president for academic affairs) in the various phases of the presidential transition process at private, selective, nonprofit colleges and universities? There was one analytical question: How did the senior academic leaders describe the decision-making process during the various phases of the presidential transition process? There is a lack of empirical research about presidential transition processes in higher education. This study, therefore, relied heavily on research from other discourses and narratives of practitioners. It connected literature about leadership transitions and the academic presidency in order to examine how the transition process can support a newly appointed president. This study was conducted using a basic interpretive design consistent with a constructivist research paradigm. Data were collected from semistructured interviews with 19 senior academic leaders from 19 different institutions. The data were coded and analyzed to identify 10 themes consistent with the literature reviewed. The 19 participants described their experiences in three phases (reflection, selection, and onboarding) of the presidential transition process. Participants reported being involved in the reflection phase of the process by leading and participating in planning processes. They reported serving as advocates for the academic program during the selection phase. The study also found that the role of senior academic leaders during the onboarding phase was to facilitate the development of relationships. The analysis was interpreted through the analytic framework of organizational decision-making. The study produced four findings, which indicated why decision-making processes were and were not present, identified tension between academic and market values during the transition, and showed how the transition process may affect a presidency. Recommendations were provided for practice and further research.