Opting Out of the Presidency: Perspectives of Community College Chief Academic Officers

Open Access
Appiah-padi, Radecka
Graduate Program:
Workforce Education and Development
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 12, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Edgar I Farmer Sr., Dissertation Advisor
  • Edgar I Farmer Sr., Committee Chair
  • Wesley Edward Donahue, Committee Member
  • Craig D Weidemann, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • chief academic officer
  • community colleges
  • higher education leadership
This study explored the perspectives of community college chief academic officers (CAOs) on why they are opting not to pursue the college presidency as their next career move. The issue of CAOs opting out has been identified as a component of impending leadership crises in higher education, including a shortage of executive leaders in U.S. community colleges. This qualitative research study examined the lived experiences of nine CAOs (two males and seven females) from Pennsylvania community colleges to understand the reasons why community college chief academic officers in Pennsylvania are opting not to pursue the college presidency. An in-depth interview process was used to explore three research questions related to the topic: 1. What lived experiences influence the Chief Academic Officers (CAOs) to opt in or out of the presidency pipeline? 2. Why is the presidency not desirable to CAOs as indicated by them? 3. How might future academic leaders be encouraged to move into the CAO position and eventually into the presidency? The study revealed that CAOs come into higher education because of their personal passion for the academic functions of education: teaching and learning. CAOs make the decision to opt out of the presidency pipeline because the functions of the presidency are not aligned with their passions and interests. College presidents are externally focused and more engaged with the wider external community, than they are with day-to-day academic operations. The external nature of the functions and attributes of the presidency makes the role unattractive to CAOs.