Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chair; Terri Monroe, RSCJ, EdD; Kim Braun Padulo, EdD


case study, college student unions, director, executive director, gender discrimination, higher education, leadership positions, Leadership studies, qualitative, university student unions, women


The student union facilities found on the majority of college and university campuses within the United States serve a variety of functions. Commonly referred to as the “living room” of the campus community, student unions provide space for co-curricular educational experiences, study and reflection, organizational meetings/business, retail operations, dining and entertainment. The field of university union management attracts individuals that enjoy working in complex, high-energy environments where learning and student development are encouraged. Despite the overwhelming presence of women in today's workforce, the realm of university union management remains dominated by men. A “glass ceiling” appears to exist in this field. The overarching purpose of this study was to better understand factors that have lead to the scarcity of women in positions of executive director or director in university union settings. This study did this by focusing upon the perceptions and experiences of nine women who currently hold or have held the title of director or executive director of a college or university union facility. A qualitative case study/cross case analysis design was utilized for this project. Following the collection of data through the use of a written participant profile and oral interviews with each of the respondents, case studies were constructed and presented in a narrative form to allow the individual personalities of the participants to emerge. The use of cross case analysis grouped the data into organized themes and provided a sense of the patterns that cut across individual and particular contexts, resulting in the emergence of trends that were significant to understanding this particular population. The respondents in the study did not perceive gender playing a significant role in obtaining a union director position, though a careful analysis of the findings suggests the hypothesis that gender may have had more of an indirect effect than respondents perceived. Some respondents did allude to encountering some degree of gender discrimination once hired to fill a union director position, but it appeared as if the nine respondents in the study were successful in overcoming and/or managing this discrimination. All found their jobs tremendously satisfying and believed they were highly effective in executing the complex set of tasks that must be performed as union directors. All respondents also indicated that they had developed ways to retain some semblance of a private life in addition to their careers. Some respondents' strategies appeared to be more successful than others' strategies, and it may be significant that a majority of the respondents were not married and had no children. The intrusion on private lives factor, in other words, may be a partial explanation for the appearance of a glass ceiling phenomenon in the world of the union directorship.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access