Date of Award



© 2019 Karen (Kas) Metzler

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

William Boozang

Second Advisor

Jennie Calnan

Third Advisor

Georgia Lorenz


The intention of this qualitative research study is to interview women who are college presidents/chancellors at two- or four-year, public higher education institutions in California about their experiences that have contributed to where they are today. There were twenty-six (26) participants in the study.

The research questions for the study were inspired by the statistics that show the current representation of women college presidents at two and four-year, public institutions in California is greater in comparison to the national statistic. The researcher became curious as to how and why women college presidents in California were thriving in a system that, according to the statistical representation as well as the literature, was not optimal. There are four main research questions: 1) What are the significant factors that women college presidents/chancellors at two and four-year public higher education (HE) institutions in California attribute to their ascension to high-level leadership? 2) What are the significant challenges to the cultivation of the women as leaders and in attaining the position of College President/Chancellor at a two and four-year public HE institution in California? 3) What strategies for optimal growth are suggested for women leaders who aspire to become a College President/Chancellor at a two and four-year public HE institution in California? And, 4) What factors can be attributed to the significant presence of women College Presidents/Chancellors at two and four-year public HE institutions in California?

Using complex adaptive systems as the conceptual framework for the research, themes emerged as data was analyzed. The paradigm that encapsulates the essence of the findings in this research is emotional intelligence (EI). Additional themes that represent findings for this research within the CAS model are: Relationships, Authenticity as agency, Adaptability and Purpose & Intention (RQ1), “Always-on”, Finding a seat at the table, and Being non-linear in a linear system (RQ2), Just do it, Build relationships and Know your purpose (RQ3); and, Governance, Role models, and System adaptations (RQ4).

Re-designing the CAS model for HE in California after the findings emerged from the data, highlights how adaptable and interconnected the elements are. The findings of the study suggest that the recognition of EI competencies, not just of the women leaders in HE in California but throughout the network of the CA system, is prevalent. The shared purpose of higher education in California is to serve students yet the mechanism of how to do that requires adaptive, intuitive and situational decisions. This study illuminates directly from the source, the knowledge, skills and abilities to make that reality.


Ed.D. Dissertation

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