Leadership and Advancement in Higher Education: A Multiple Case Study of Pioneering Latina Presidents at 4-Year Public Institutions




Rodriguez, Brenda J.

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This qualitative multiple case study aimed to examine the leadership development and career trajectories of individual Latina presidents at public 4-year colleges and universities. Latina presidents’ leadership experiences throughout their career trajectories to leading 4-year institutions is a phenomenon that required further exploration due to the very low number of Latinas who have accomplished this feat. The research questions for my qualitative multiple case research study are: How does the intersectionality of gender and ethnicity impact Latinas’ access to leadership development and their career trajectories to the university presidency? In what ways do the participants’ experiences inform Latinas to prepare for and navigate the career pipeline to upper levels of leadership? The theoretical framework for this study utilized Bandura’s social cognitive theory, LatCrit, and Latina feminism. The semi-structured interview with each president consisted of exploring salient experiences related to four domains – her career trajectory and professional development, her leadership development including reflecting on artefacts that exemplified her leadership, and discussion of influential individuals and her personal attributes that contributed to her career advancement and leadership development. The within-case analysis of each president found a spectrum of challenges and successes related to her gender and ethnicity. The findings of this study support literature that reported stereotypical male norms permeate how leadership should be demonstrated in higher education. Furthermore, the study supports literature regarding motivation and skill enhancement related to leadership development and career advancement begins in early career experiences which can be further developed by mentorship and sponsorship throughout the leadership pipeline. The cross-case analysis found that Latinas in higher education leadership experienced a double bind or double standard to how others perceive leadership. Yet, all three participants attributed their identities as a woman and a Latina as instrumental to their leadership styles and motivations as presidents – serving the institution, serving historically underrepresented minoritized students, and serving as role models to other Latinas in higher education. Additionally, the cross-case analysis found a kaleidoscope of influences – the Latinx culture, academic culture, and White men – contributed to challenges and triumphs in advancement. Additional themes included values congruence and commitment to the institution. By aligning their values to their motivations, they were able to further commit to the institutions in which they served. Ultimately, the intersection of gender and ethnicity, and the multiple positionalities each expressed, impacted each president differently but played a role in how each navigated her career advancement and leadership development. Each president, as pioneers in a field dominated by White men, negotiated her identities to be successful. The implications help to recognize the level of negotiation each president demonstrated to be successful. The implications further highlight the intersectional assets, and community cultural wealth, Latinas contribute to higher education. Latinas and universities can recruit and funnel more Latinas in the leadership pipeline by embracing individual responsibility to professional growth, committing to talent development, encouraging cross-cultural mentorship and sponsorship, and addressing implicit bias.



Latinas, Leadership, Higher education, Presidents, Public institutions


Rodriguez, B. J. (2020). <i>Leadership and advancement in higher education: A multiple case study of pioneering Latina presidents at 4-year public institutions</i> (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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