Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Cheryl Getz, Ed.D, Chair; Zachary Gabriel Green, Ph.D, Member; Christopher B. Newman, Ph.D, Member


authenticity, development, fat, identity, leadership, women


Cultural propaganda promotes an ever-changing feminine ideal which is parasitically reliant on women preoccupying themselves—ourselves—with our physical aesthetic. For women that identify as fat, most spaces openly neglect or are simply intolerant of her and even the stores meant for her are riddled with products meant to bind, reshape and essentially change her body. Fat women embody the paradox of being both conspicuous and unseen. Within systems, fat women are often silenced by shame, bias and discrimination; the unwanted and soiled identity hold us at the margins and serving as a barrier to effectively connect with others and practice leadership. In fact, these barriers, can result in recreating oppressive systems, uncomfortable environments and circumstances which continue to marginalize and discount the existence and value of fat women.

This exploratory action research study allowed collaborators to engage in systematic collaborative and critical self-inquiry in an effort to secure congruence, continuity and acceptance around fatness. The questions guiding this research were: 1) How do I influence my and the collective groups’ meaning making processes? 2) How does a woman who identifies as fat construct meaning of who she is? 3) How do a group of women who identify as fat construct shared meaning of who we are? 4) How does the meaning making impact the overall development of the group? And, do the developments of the group influence individual capacity for leadership, and if so in what ways? Through the use of individual interviews, social media, video recorded reflection and group meetings, collaborators took part in exchanges that allowed each person the ability to intentionally participate in her growth and the growth of others.

Major findings include that language was instrumental in both indicating and influencing consciousness, and sub-culture inclusion can prove insufficient when one is seeking dominant culture acceptance. Further, this study suggests that as we modify, reframe, understand and reimagine our internal narratives, it cannot help but influence how we relate to our external world.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies