Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Jay Dee

Second Advisor

Dwight E. Giles, Jr.

Third Advisor

Thomas L. Tarantelli


This study seeks to understand higher education leadership overall by exploring how mid-level leadership is enacted by career services directors. Given that higher education institutions are facing a wide range of challenges that require an equally wide range of skills to address them, colleges and universities may need to become more inclusive regarding who contributes to institutional leadership. Mid-level leadership is defined in this study as a process of social interaction that originates with a middle manager and that cuts across functional areas and/or hierarchical levels to impact institutional goals. Three research questions frame the study: 1) How do career services directors develop the capacity for social influence within their institutions, 2) How do career services directors use their social influence to cut across functional areas and hierarchical levels, and 3) What institutional goals are advanced when career services directors enact mid-level leadership? A collective case study methodology was employed. Twelve career services directors whose profiles matched the study’s selection criteria for individual characteristics (e.g. years working in a director-level position in career services, years working at the director level at their current institution, minimum of master’s degree, evidence of engagement in leadership activities on- and off-campus), unit characteristics (e.g. unit size, staff configuration, and scope of services offered), and institutional characteristics (e.g. geographic location, institutional size, four-year public or non-profit status) took part in interviews for the study. Study findings indicated that career services directors developed the capacity for social influence by creating internal networks, involving staff in increasing the visibility of the unit, and establishing themselves and/or their unit as a critical institutional resource. They utilized their social influence by deliberately leveraging their networks, providing access to information and resources, and framing issues for institutional stakeholders. The study found that when career services directors enacted mid-level leadership, the institutional goals they impacted included the development and/or implementation of the institution’s strategic plan, curriculum development and student learning, and the advancement of diversity initiatives.