The Nature of the Working Relationship between a College President and Board of Trustees: A Case Study

Open Access
Dufour, Catherine Simmons
Graduate Program:
Higher Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 22, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Neal H. Hutchens, Dissertation Advisor
  • Neal H. Hutchens, Committee Chair
  • Robert M. Mendrickson, Committee Member
  • Michael J. Dooris, Committee Member
  • Kathleen J. Bieschke, Outside Member
  • higher education
  • president
  • board of trustees
  • relationship
  • roles and responsibilities
  • trust
  • communcation and transparency
  • shared vision
This exploratory case study used qualitative methods as well as role and social exchange theoretical perspectives to understand the nature of president-board relationships in higher education. Additionally, it also probed for possible connections between the nature of this relationship and the length of a presidency, seeking to identify notable changes. The study used individual interviews with 19 individuals engaged in governance and leadership at one small, private, Liberal Arts institution. Analysis of the data revealed four core features of the president-board relationship at this college: (1) communication and transparency, (2) trust, (3) shared vision, and (4) an understanding of roles and responsibilities. The data presented here indicates that an engaged, active dialogue between the president and the board is essential to the president-board relationship. It was also apparent that trust, a shared vision, and the development and maintenance of a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities are integrally tied to communication and transparency. The study includes recommendations for future research and practical applications of the findings.