A phenomenological study on historically black colleges and universities African American male presidents using student affairs as a career pathway
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The purpose of this study is to create a detailed profile of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) African American male presidents with Chief Student Affairs Officer (CSAO) experience. HBCUs are currently in the midst of a leadership crisis and the attrition rate of presidential leadership at HBCUs is direr than that of Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). While facing the tumultuous leadership climate, HBCUs are considering hiring presidents who possess a non-traditional career pathway, meaning those who have never served as Chief Academic Officer (CAO). As the role of the HBCU leader has evolved over time into the complex, multifaceted job functionality of the modern-day president, it is vital to have an individual who is well versed in a multitude of areas including fundraising and crisis management. Currently, an individual with CSAO experience leads less than five percent of HBCUs. Most of the research conducted on American college presidents’ focuses primarily on Predominantly White Institutions and the traditional career pathway of rising through the ranks of the faculty until being promoted into the academic administration. This study will use a qualitative approach to provide a thorough analysis of the path to the HBCU presidency by individuals with CSAO experience. A normative career ladder for the HBCU presidents with CSAO experience will also be described as a result of this study. To execute this study, HBCU presidents with CSAO experience were interviewed to gain their perspectives on their preparation, search process, and ultimate acceptance. This study will serve as a guide for current student affairs practitioners who have a desire to lead a HBCU, board members who are held responsible for hiring HBCU leaders, and researchers who study the career pathways of university presidents.