Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Andrea L. Beach


Department chairs have received considerable attention in higher education literature due to the many challenges associated with their mid-level administrative position. Those who accept the department chair position report limited preparation, little or no formal training, increased stress, and overall difficulty functioning in their numerous roles. The troubled experience of many who have served as department chairs was the central problem driving this research.

The music discipline is particularly complex when compared to other academic disciplines because of its unique characteristics and challenges. The purpose of the current study was to understand and describe the process by which music department chairs learn to function in their multiple roles and perform their multiple responsibilities.

Using qualitative methods, semi-structured interviews were conducted with fifteen college and university music department chairs from fifteen institutions in the Midwest. Results of this study were organized into eight main themes with several sub-themes. Main themes included: (1) experiences during the anticipatory stage of organizational socialization indicate that participants did not plan or prepare to become music department chairs, (2) experiences during the encounter stage of organizational socialization indicate that the transition into the music department chair position was a difficult process, (3) learning how to function as music department chairs involved socialization processes and on-the-job experiences, (4) relationships were significant sources of support and role sense-making for music department chairs, (5) music department chairs identified numerous strategies that facilitate role functioning, (6) years of department chair experience had a significant effect on role sense-making and scholarly productivity, (7) being musicians helped participants to make meaning of their music department chair roles and responsibilities, and (8) challenges and characteristics of college and university music programs may make the music department chair role more difficult than department chair roles in other academic programs.

This study is significant in both department chair and music department chair literature in that it researched multiple dimensions of organizational socialization for understanding how department chairs make sense of their roles and responsibilities. Implications from this study's findings are provided for prospective department chairs, new department chairs, experienced department chairs, administrators, and researchers.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access