Higher Education Leadership in American Geography: Restrospect and Prospect

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Nancy Mansberger

Second Advisor

Dr. Van E. Cooley


Transformational leadership, geographic thought, academic geography, history of geography, educational leadership


The evolution of any major discipline may be assessed by examining the emergence and decline of its academic programs and its leadership over the course of time. In the United States, widespread departmentalization occurred throughout academia in the latter part of the 19th century, and the discipline of geography, spawned by geology, most often found a home in academic departments devoted to the earth sciences. Throughout the 20th century, the discipline frequently gained autonomy in independent departments of geography, which burgeoned in number after the second World War, and with this growth came an increase in graduate programs awarding doctorates. It was here that transformational leaders often emerged as department chairs, shaping the content and nature of geography and establishing models of leadership, which often fueled the success of programs and sparked shifts in paradigms. Yet, on occasion, departmental chairmanships fell to individuals marked by laissez faire behaviors, which led to disaster for some departments and programs, and they were forced to fold.

In essence, the vitality of academic geography in the United States has rested upon its legacy of leadership. Effective leaders within key academic departments played imperative roles in the discipline's prosperity, and in contrast, mediocrity in leadership has largely been responsible for periods of austerity. moreover, it is argued that exemplary leaders characterized by transformational leadership attributes fostered high levels of achievement among their colleagues and subordinate faculty, whereas leaders marked by laissez faire characteristics often coexisted with unsuccessful colleagues. Thus, an examination of higher education leadership in academic geography based upon historical analysis is imperative, for it reveals an understanding of the right moves and serious blunders that have created present circumstances. The intention of this dissertation is to offer such a work so that leaders in geography, today and in the future, might be able to avoid the agony of failure and instead develop strategies for success by recognizing effective leadership behaviors that foster high levels of achievement.


This dissertation is not available electronically per the author's request, but a print copy can be found in the Education Library at call number LB 9999.2 .D485 and can be requested through Interlibrary Loan.

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