Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Elizabeth Allan

Second Committee Member

Leah Hakkola

Third Committee Member

Kathleen Gillon

Additional Committee Members

Esther Enright

James Vander Hooven


In response to research pointing to a growing executive leadership crisis in community colleges (CCs), with too few strong candidates entering the leadership pipeline for the presidency, I focused this study on individuals already in that pipeline. My goal was to develop an understanding of their perceptions of their own roles in the pipeline and the potential of faculty to enter the pipeline and ultimately achieve a presidency. Utilizing a qualitative research design, I explored the perceptions of eight individuals who occupy the pivotal position of chief academic officer (CAO) within the leadership pipeline at a CC, all recruited from a single state CC system. I carried out my research, in the form of interviews via Zoom and document collection, from March to June 2022. My goal was to gain a better understanding of how CC faculty are poised in executive job searches and how current CC administrators perceive their readiness to seek a position as president of a CC. Key among my findings drawn from the participant interviews and documents were the steps aspiring leaders among the faculty can take to prepare for leadership. First, faculty must be willing to carry out tasks, outside their regular teaching duties, that help them build experience. Second, they should become familiar with areas beyond their departments and the college environment, up through the state legislature. Third, they should seek to earn a doctorate if they have a degree no higher than a master’s degree. Finally, the data revealed that fundraising is an essential aspect of the president’s job. Therefore, as a faculty member moves up through the leadership pipeline, they must become comfortable with this aspect of the position. Through these results, I assembled a list of recommendations for guiding CAOs who want to mentor faculty interested in entering the leadership pipeline, which has implications for practice.