Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Louann Bierlein Palmer, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Ramona Lewis, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Randy Ott, Ph.D.


Competency development, enrollment management, leadership


Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) is an emergent and evolving field in higher education (HE). While the concept has often been researched as a system or process implemented by an institution of HE to optimize enrollment, this study examined the professionals that currently lead or aspire to lead those systems. The HE competencies areas that current SEM professionals are most engaged with, the activities they participate in to gain and cultivate competency development, as well as their educational backgrounds and career pathways was the focus of this study. Additionally, this study investigated the competency development opportunities available to individuals working in other HE positions that aspire to SEM-related roles, their educational backgrounds, and the barriers they perceive that hinder access to their development of SEM-related competencies.

The competency areas used in the study were created by American Association of Registrars and Admissions Counselors or AACRAO (“Core Competencies”, n.d.) and included change management, collaborative decision making and consensus building, communication, diversity and inclusion, holistic and systemic thinking, interpretation and application of data, leadership and management problem solving, professional integrity, and technological knowledge. This quantitative study used a researcher developed survey that posed questions to a sample of current and aspiring SEM professionals that are members of the professional organizations, AACRAO and National Association of Student Personnel Administrators or NASPA. This population was chosen to gain perspectives from a broad range of HE individuals in differing careers and employed at various institutions types nationally and abroad. The survey included both closed and open-ended questions to capture the insight of current and aspiring SEM professionals. The survey garnered responses from 973 participants total from the two professional organizations.

The study identified that the main competency areas SEM professionals engage in the most are professional integrity, communication, technology, and problem solving. The activities that both current and aspiring professionals most frequently participate in to further their competencies development are attending conferences, professional organization meetings, and career networking. The perceived barriers that hinder access to competencies development opportunities for those wishing to enter a SEM career fell into the categories of “budget/cost/finding,” ‘time and resources,” “positionality,” and “lack of support from leadership and/or institution.” Additionally, the study determined the educational backgrounds of current and aspiring SEM professionals, including highest degree completed and academic area of degree. The career trajectory of those individuals currently in the field was also explored. Utilizing the findings from the study, a competency framework summary for a SEM-related higher education position was created. This framework can be used as a basis for creating a comprehensive model for such positions, which currently does not exist and for which these research findings offer an important foundation.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access