Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Andrea Beach, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

D. Eric Archer, Ph.D., CCLS

Third Advisor

Marlene Kowalski-Braun, Ph.D.


Career aspirations, female leadership, higher education, leadership identity development, mentoring


Men have held the majority of presidencies, vice-presidencies, deanships, and other top administrative positions on college campuses since 1950 (Parker, 2015). The disproportionately low representation of women holding leadership roles in higher education is even more urgent considering few women ever reach the senior most leadership levels (Hannum et al., 2015). As such, the American Council on Education not only identified the need to increase the presence of women in leadership positions and to cultivate a pipeline of future leaders, but also the need to provide formal leadership training opportunities for women (Howard & Gagliardi, 2018). While various higher education institutions and professional organizations and associations offer leadership development programming specifically for women there are few leadership training opportunities designed with an intentionally matched mentorship at the core, and even fewer that are designed for mid-level women leaders aspiring to advance into senior-level positions.

This study explored the leadership identity development and career aspirations of mid-level higher education women professionals who aspire to advance into senior-level positions and have completed a formal higher education women-only mentoring program offered by a professional association. Specifically, the Michigan American Council on Education Women’s Network Senior-Level Shadow Program mentorship program was selected as the population for this study due to its unique framework as one of the few women’s leadership development programs designed with a formal mentorship matching system at the heart of the program.

Using a phenomenological research design to understand the lived experiences of the mentee participants and how their leadership identity and career aspirations were influenced by participating in a formal mentoring program addresses the gap in the study of women-only leadership development programs in higher education. My results suggest that a formal mentorship can result in mentees becoming more intentional and introspective about their personal and professional development by creating spaces, broadening their view of leadership, and gaining a greater purpose. Such insight provides a strong foundation for utilizing formally matched mentoring programs as a means of supporting aspiring women professionals to become successful senior-level leaders in higher education.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access