Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership, Research, and Counseling

Document Type



This study aimed to explain how student members of United States public post-secondary education boards are socialized into their roles and how specific strategies influence their engagement and effectiveness. Researchers have studied student involvement and leadership, including why and how students become involved, individual and institutional benefits, challenges that students experience, and perceptions about students’ involvement in decision-making. Literature also addresses organizational socialization and that of post-secondary education board newcomers, including strategies that organizations use to support their engagement and effectiveness. Little research, however, has been done on the ways in which those boards attempt to support and facilitate students’ participation, in particular, and what strategies students themselves employ to ensure their success.

The literature and my own experiences led me to posit that organizational and individual strategies can and do influence the engagement and effectiveness of students who serve on these boards. With this conceptual framework, I conducted a mixed method study that utilized a questionnaire administered to student board members, follow-up in-depth personal interviews, and analysis of board documents to investigate how specific strategies influenced the students’ engagement and effectiveness.

Findings revealed that while some board-initiated strategies influenced students’ socialization, engagement, and effectiveness, those that they initiated – actions that students took themselves – seemed to be most influential. While it is no surprise that students who took the initiative to become involved and seek leadership opportunities assumed responsibility for their own success, the findings highlight an opportunity for boards to increase the impact of self-motivated student member(s) in several ways. Ensuring that student members have roles and responsibilities equivalent to other members’ can boost their engagement and effectiveness in signaling that their role is not just symbolic, but that they are colleagues and collaborators.

Findings and observations from this study will enhance the literature and the understanding of United States’ public post-secondary education governance. It is my hope that conclusions can also support positive change where needed to improve practice, helping boards and their student members to make the most of this great opportunity to enrich the leadership of our nation’s colleges and universities.



Committee Chair

Mitchell, Roland



Available for download on Tuesday, October 21, 2025