Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


The Professional Preparation of Academic Deans

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Rachel A. Vannatta, PhD (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Maureen E. Wilson, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Nancy Hritz, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Ellen U. Williams, PhD (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Judith A. Zimmerman, PhD (Committee Member)


The purpose of this causal-comparative study was to investigate the preparation of 310 academic deans at four-year public and private higher education institutions in the United States. The 21-item Professional Preparation of Academic Deans Questionnaire (PPADQ) was administered online and determined the types of preparation methods that academic deans experienced and which preparation methods they perceived to be the most beneficial. The study also investigated demographic differences (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, years as an academic dean) among academic deans and their perception of how each method contributed to their preparation and to the leadership dimensions essential to the academic dean position. Heck, Johnsrud, and Rosser (2000) provided the framework for defining the leadership dimensions. Of the 1,185 surveys distributed, 310 were submitted yielding a response rate of 26.2%. T-tests and ANOVAs revealed demographic group differences in preparation methods experienced and preparation methods contributing to the overall effectiveness as well as the seven leadership dimensions.

The conclusions from the study include: (1) informal methods such as on the job training and informal mentoring were the most common for an academic dean's preparation, (2) female and non-White academic deans were more likely to participate in more formal preparation methods, and (3) more formal preparation methods were more beneficial to females, non-Whites, and academic deans with more years of experience. Findings present an understanding of how academic deans are prepared for their positions, which preparation methods are most beneficial to their overall effectiveness, and which methods contribute most to the leadership dimensions of the deanship. The results of this study may benefit higher education institutions as they seek to increase the effectiveness and retention of academic deans. The researcher offers other explanations and suggestions regarding the findings from this study that may be valuable in better preparing and retaining academic deans in higher education.