Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Jayne Sommers, Aura Wharton-Beck, Karen Lange



The lack of women leaders in higher education and more specifically Christian higher education has been a concern for some time (Beeny et al., 2005; Haley & Jaeger, 2012; Kellerman & Rode, 2014; Longman & Anderson, 2016; Shepherd, 2017). While the number of women leaders in the field continues to grow, the specific experience of women leaders in student affairs has been largely unexplored. This case study examined the experience of 13 senior women student affairs leaders as they navigated and negotiated their career path within evangelical Christian colleges. The study explored how the shared culture of evangelical Christian colleges (their values and organizational dynamics) shaped how women leaders constructed their identities as student affairs professionals. Three themes emerged from the findings: calling, juxtaposition of gender norms and expectations, and stages of student affairs leadership. By applying feminist theory and Eagly and Carli’s (2007) labyrinth metaphor and women’s leadership framework to the findings, the benefits and challenges of leading as a woman in a Christian college setting were examined. Illuminating the story of this group of women leaders uncovered implications for graduate programs, executive leadership at Christian colleges, and women leaders in student affairs, along with recommendations for future research.

Keywords: gender, leadership, student affairs, Christian higher education, calling, sexism


Gender, leadership, student affairs, Christian Higher Education, calling, sexism

Creative Commons License

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

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