The evolving roles and responsibilities of chief student affairs officers at four-year public colleges and universities.



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Texas Tech University


The evolving roles and responsibilities of chief student affairs officers (CSAOs) has become a significant challenge for those in the position. The purpose of this study was to examine this evolution and investigate whether or not there were differences between the student affairs administration domains and the behavioral characteristics associated with each domain, organizational structures, and generational differences.

The study sample consisted of CSAOs at four-year public post secondary institutions within the United States of America with student enrollments of 20,000 and above (N = 106). This was a quasi-replication study, which built and expanded upon recent research conducted by Elkins (2006). His study focused solely on CSAOs at Christian affiliated colleges.

Five research questions were explored as the basis for inquiry. The data was collected via a web-based survey instrument developed by Elkins (2006) with information adapted from Yukl (1998) and Winston et al. (2001). The data analysis was a combination of descriptive and inferential statistics. A 55% (58/106) return rate was calculated for the survey instrument.

The findings established that the surveyed chief student affairs officers perceived the ideal role and the self perception of their role to be that of a leader 62% (36/58). This finding was counter to the literature, which stated that the educator role was the primary role of CSAOs. Significant differences were found in the daily educator, essential educator, essential leader, and essential manager grouped behavioral characteristics by ANOVAs. After a pairwise comparison, the daily educator domain produced a significant mean difference between educator and leader. The behavioral characteristics of most and least predominance were outlined. Using chi-square test with contingency tables, no significant differences were found between the student affairs administration domains of educator, leader, and manger, and the variables of organizational structures and generational differences.

Lastly, a comparison using descriptive statistics was developed between the findings from Elkins’s study and this study on self perception of CSAOs, differences between student affairs administration domains and the nine grouped behavioral characteristics, and behavioral characteristics of most and least predominance. The majority of findings indicated only small differences between the perceptions of CSAOs at Christian colleges and those from four-year public institutions. This research is important to the field of student affairs because it adds to the literature base, it offers a new look at dated research, and it provides a different lens with which to look at the impact that CSAOs have on their college campuses.



Colleges, Chief student affairs officers