Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Christopher B. Newman, PhD; Zachary G. Green, PhD; Craig M. Elliott II, PhD


bell hooks, Higher Education, Leadership, Student Affairs, Teaching to Transgress, Transgressive Teaching


Transgressive teaching can have a substantive and transformative impact on the experiences of students in primary, secondary, and higher education classrooms. Transgressive teaching is exemplified by the engaged pedagogy outlined by bell hooks in the seminal work Teaching to Transgress, in which teachers seek to engage spaces of learning in deeper and more holistic ways. Scholars have theorized transgressive teaching, when implemented by student affairs professionals, can have similar effects on the experiences of students, especially those from identity groups which have historically been marginalized in higher education. However, there is a limited understanding of the experiences of student affairs professionals learning and applying these concepts to their practice.

This study used a qualitative phenomenological approach, augmented by modified grounded theory, to understand deeper connections between the experiences of nine student affairs professionals who identify as White, heterosexual, and male; work in a variety of functional areas and institution types; and have varying levels of experience in the field. Using a purposive sampling approach, data was collected in four stages via an initial interview with each participant, the collection of journal entries kept by participants while reading Teaching to Transgress, a second interview of participants immediately after their reading, and a final interview of participants three to six weeks after their reading. Data was analyzed using an In Vivo coding approach. The findings of this study address three major areas: (a) putting theory into practice, (b) identity salience, and (c) leadership.

The findings of this study hold significance for higher education and student affairs. First, findings reflect ways transgressive teaching helps White, heterosexual, male student affairs professionals with multiple dominant group identities examine those identities’ impact on practice. Second, the findings illuminate ways transgressive teaching can be incorporated into professional training in graduate school and professional development programs for White, heterosexual, male student affairs professionals. Finally, the findings explore how these experiences can contribute to White, heterosexual, male student affairs professionals understanding and practicing leadership.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies