Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Glenn Olsen


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine how the career paths of eight Baby Boomer Generation early childhood education (ECE) professionals evolved over time to support their leadership roles in research, pedagogy and policy development. Data was collected through a two-stage interviewing process and common themes were discovered through the analysis of the transcribed interviews. These themes revealed the participants' lived experiences during the historically significant period of the Civil Rights Movement, had a profound impact on the participants' philosophies, values and senses of a mission-driven purpose during their careers. The adaptive leadership model served as the conceptual framework for the study. Being mentored, developing peer networks and job experience gave the participants the expertise necessary to lead the field. Leadership attributes of persistence, risk-taking and passion, along with excellent communication skills, propelled the participants to positions of responsibility and influence as well as garnering opportunities for publishing and professional prominence. The participants enjoy working and few consider retiring, but will transition slowly to other meaningful work when new leaders step forward. The findings of this study suggest strong generational differences must be overcome in the workforce for the ECE field to stay relevant into the future and allow a transition of leadership to occur to the younger professionals in the field.