Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Presidential responses to crises at public university campuses: What leaders do and how others perceive their actions
by Menghini, Rebecca J., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2014, 220; 3635753
Abstract (Summary)

This study examines presidential response to human-induced crises on public university campuses. The goal of the research was to understand specifically what actions and behaviors leaders in crisis take; what kinds of teams they assemble and the ways those teams function; how the leaders communicate--both to their teams and their institutional communities; and the ways their actions, behaviors and communications are understood by stakeholders of the campus.

A review of current literature on crises in higher education supports the research, and aided in the formulation of the four sets of research questions. Specifically, the compilation of research in crisis and crisis management; the role of the president in higher education; leadership and communication in crisis; and sensemaking and social cognition theory highlighted several gaps in understanding about leader behavior in crisis. The research questions, therefore, were structured to explore presidential actions and behaviors, teams and team function, intentional messaging and communication, and stakeholder perceptions in crisis.

Presidents at three large, public, research universities were the focus of the case studies. The findings emerged out of site visits to the campuses, personal interviews and review of historical documents and media coverage. While the leaders and the crises differed at each site, several common themes surfaced and the study revealed some important revelations and implications for both the literature and leaders in practice today. For instance, the findings demonstrated the significance of active, engaged leadership in crisis, highlighted the roles teams play in helping leaders to manage and resolve crises, and exposed the ways trust—both of the sort leaders bring to crisis and the kind they afford others with whom they work—influences leader actions and stakeholder perceptions. Ultimately, the research elicited a list of guidelines that presidents--as well as those who hire, support, or work with presidents—might consider as they prepare for and encounter crisis.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Eckel, Peter
Commitee: Scott, Robert, Zemsky, Robert
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education Management
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 76/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Higher Education Administration, Higher education
Keywords: Crisis, President, Presidential, Response
Publication Number: 3635753
ISBN: 9781321170726
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