Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership


The purpose of this study was to understand the role of the graduate dean at selected American Universities. The primaiy method of investigating the role of the graduate dean was grounded theory. The sample for this study was composed of the graduate dean at the University of North Dakota (UND) and nine institutions identified by the North Dakota University System as UND’s peers including Southern Illinois University—Carbondale, State University of New York at Buffalo, University of Louisville, University of Missouri—Kansas City, University of Nevada—Reno, University of South Carolina, Wright State University, Ohio University, and West Virginia University. The data analysis was based on transcriptions of semi-structured, in- depth interviews and responses to a case study. E-mail message responses assisted in clarifying or verifying an idea and were included in the analysis.

A grounded theory model was developed describing causal conditions that underlie the primary role of the dean, intervening conditions that influence the dean’s decision-making, and the consequences of these conditions. In analyzing the data, I found that three issues that deans frequently raised were petitions, policies, and program development.

Assertions and sub-assertions were derived from the data. The first assertion was that the graduate dean modifies or upholds the standards. Secondly, standards may be modified by the creation of new policies. A sub-assertion was that deans aim to consider students’ needs when new policies are developed. The third assertion was that deans want quality programs approved that meet standards of academic excellence. A subassertion was that deans wanted programs to address needs of the state.

The graduate dean as the guardian of standards and academic excellence was the phenomenon in this study as participants most frequently discussed the importance of standards. All of the graduate deans, whether responding to petitions or policies, or working with faculty on new program proposals, had as their main concern whether the standards of academic excellence set forth for graduate education were being maintained.

Intervening conditions were discussed as well as the strategies that deans employ to handle petitions, develop new policies, and to facilitate new programs.