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Lay Leadership of Catholic Mission at the Catholic College/University: An Exploratory Study Open Access

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Lay Leadership of Catholic Mission at the Catholic College / University: An Exploratory StudyLay leadership in Catholic higher education is becoming increasingly common in the United States. Lay people now constitute the majority of presidents at Catholic colleges and universities in this country. To their presidencies, lay people bring diverse skills, attributes, and knowledge. This multiple case study explored how five lay presidents of Catholic colleges / universities lead their respective Catholic missions. The purpose of this study was to explore a growing phenomenon in Catholic higher education: lay presidential leadership of Catholic mission at the Catholic college / university (CCU). Presidential leadership of the CCU requires that the lay president articulate the Catholic mission publicly and deliberately. This study examined the research question: How do five lay presidents lead the Catholic mission at their respective Catholic Colleges/ Universities (CCUs)? The research question was operationalized by three sub research questions. The study was guided by Thomistic epistemology that incorporated the use of faith and reason in data collection and analysis. An interpretivistic paradigm of inquiry characterized this study which accessed the Leadership That Matters (Sashkin & Sashkin, 2003) theoretical framework. Using a multiple case study design to conduct this exploratory descriptive qualitative dissertation, data were collected using semi-structured interviews and document analysis. This research yielded thick and rich detail about how the lay presidents in this study lead and embody their institutions' Catholic missions. Findings extended the Leadership That Matters framework for a Catholic higher education setting. From the study emerged 11 cross-case themes that were then refined to generate a conceptual model entitled Lay Presidents: Operationalizing the Catholic Mission. The study provides theoretical implications for the Leadership That Matters framework, for lay presidents in Catholic higher education, and for the use of Thomism as an epistemological lens for qualitative leadership research. It also provided practical applications for new and existing lay presidents, religious presidents, academic leadership programs, associations, and critics.

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