Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Margaret Healy


Student affairs practice at small schools is becoming increasingly complex, and staff at all levels, including the senior student affairs officer (SSAO) are required to manage multiple roles. The purpose of this study was to use a grounded theory methodology to investigate if the need for the SSAO to hold multiple roles requires them to be able to effectively utilize both leadership and management skills. A second research question of this study was to investigate if the culture of a religiously-affiliated college impacts the way the SSAOs conduct their role. To investigate these questions, SSAOs at small, private, liberal arts colleges affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) were interviewed to gain an understanding of their roles and the context in which they are performed.

Results from this study indicate that SSAOs do need to use both leadership and management, but that this model does not sufficiently describe their work. SSAO s are required to act as boundary spanners, working in many different domains of the institution, and occasionally even crossing institutional boundaries. They also need to be agile in their work, with little time to spend on any one task. Finally, SSAOs can exert their own influence over the way they spend their time to invest in areas of the job they receive the most satisfaction and find to be the most meaningful.