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The Barriers and Successes Experienced by Chief Business Officers in Higher Education Who Have Served in the Role of College President

  • Author(s): Carter, Michael Hill
  • Advisor(s): Eagan, Mark K
  • et al.

In an effort to provide new avenues for sourcing college presidents, this study examined the barriers and successes chief business officers (CBOs) experience when pursuing and serving in the role of college or university president. Specifically, this study examined the perceptions and experiences of 12 current presidents from CBO backgrounds as well as five executive recruiters who have recently guided a presidential search process.

Semi-structured individual interviews provided the data for this study, which, when analyzed, identified specific themes to aid the research questions. As these themes emerged, they helped inform subsequent interviews, refining and reformulating the questions asked.

The findings of this study suggest that CBO presidents are likely to work in less selective, financially struggling institutions. Despite their lack of academic credentials, these presidents reported experiencing an insignificant amount of resistance from faculty during the search process. As CBOs, the participants in this study obtained a breadth of experience directly related to the skills needed to be an effective president. These skills extended beyond traditional CBO roles of managing the internal resources of an institution. Most importantly, the CBOs gained experience working through issues related to the academic mission of the institution. Most CBOs also participated in raising funds for the organization. Over half of the study’s presidential participants credited their work with a mentor for providing these broad opportunities.

With regard to the interviewed recruiters, most felt that the number of CBO presidents will increase slowly due to the large number of presidential vacancies, the lack of traditional candidates in the pipeline, and the current financial crisis facing higher education. In order for more CBOs to rise to this elevated position, CBOs must broaden their focus by addressing the gaps in their skills and experience that currently hinder their paths to the presidency.

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