Date of Award



© 2020 Ian Menchini

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Marylin Newell

Second Advisor

Corey Berg

Third Advisor

Enid Larsen


This study employed a phenomenological methodology to explore the experiences shared by leaders of a public university in the Northeast United States during an extraordinary period of organizational change. The university’s organizational transformation was particularly noteworthy because it came in the face of circumstances entirely out of the university’s control. These circumstances included its state’s declining population as well as its state government’s failure to invest heavily in higher education. These long-term challenges were exacerbated by the sudden onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and a near simultaneous proposal by its system’s former executive to radically and negatively change the university’s operations. Interviews with 11 leaders at the university revealed themes of higher education as a public service, crisis, change, and survival. The interpretation of these themes demonstrated that the leaders were moving forward and that they had reflected on their organizational circumstances. Data further demonstrated the importance of coalitions during a change initiative as well as the significance of leaders providing context for organizational change. The study’s conclusions aligned with its research questions involving the organizational transition as well as the ways the leaders came to understand the period during the proposed change and the impact of Covid-19. The study found that perceptions play a significant role during an organizational change initiative and that there is value in building outside support for organizational change. Findings led to recommendations for leadership development and encouraged further investigation of the recipients involved in the proposed change and the need for recognition and analysis of the emotional reactions to change initiatives by staff occupying non-leadership roles at the university.


Ed.D. Dissertation