Date of Award

January 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Zarrina Azizova


Some university presidents have engaged with stakeholders by using Twitter content to interact with them and strengthen institutional image. However, little research has been published concerning how university presidents use social media to connect with audiences in areas that directly impact institutional image, specifically, college rankings such as those provided by U.S. News & World Report.

This study addressed two questions: What is the content of the Twitter posts of top public university presidents who use Twitter, and how does that content relate to criteria that reinforce institutional image, such as the U.S. News & World Report rankings? These questions were contextualized as case studies of three high ranking institutions in the 2018 U.S. News & World Report top public university rankings whose presidents personally used Twitter. The content of these presidents’ tweets was analyzed, building on a theoretical framework of four theories of communication: reader-response theory, agenda setting theory, contagion theory, and homophily. The researcher examined whether these presidents employed common themes and messages that aligned with the 2018 U.S. News & World Report selection criteria.

The study revealed that the Twitter content of these presidents was multidimensional. While it related to at least two 2018 U.S. News & World Report selection criteria, it also related to many other priorities, needs, and daily developments. Further, audiences for these tweets engaged most with the same content categories the presidents tweeted most about (indicating shared interest). Finally, the study suggested an opportunity for presidents to use Twitter to connect more closely with alumni and donors.