Date of Award



© 2020 Heidi Kirkman

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Ella Benson

Second Advisor

Jessica Branch

Third Advisor

Shannon Fleishman


Higher education is currently experiencing industry changes that make good leadership even more crucial. However, most academic leaders arrive at their first leadership position with no leadership training and find the transition challenging. The purpose of this phenomenological study is to examine the lived experiences of community college chairs in relation to leadership development practices. The research questions that drive this study are (a) What competencies/skills are needed for performing the department chair role? (b) What are the professional development needs of community college department chairs? (c) What types of professional development do department chairs find most valuable? (d) What types of professional leadership development are most often offered to community college chairs?

Participants are all current department chairs at one medium-sized community college in the mid-Atlantic region. Participants volunteered to share their experiences through semi-structured interviews, transcripts of which were then analyzed for thematic and experiential commonalities. Analysis of the findings revealed that chairs had very little development offered to them that specifically addressed their duties as department chair. The participants were frustrated at the lack of information they had about the processes involved with their day-to-day responsibilities. Participants were interested in continually learning to more effectively and independently do their jobs, and participants were confident in their ability to handle the teaching and learning aspects of their work. Overall the strongest development opportunities that resonated with the participants were ones where they were able to collaborate, find camaraderie and support, and build a broader leadership network.


Ed.D. Dissertation