Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chair; Mary B. McDonald, PhD, Member; Paula S. Krist, PhD, Member; Roseanne Mirabella, PhD, Member


experiential education, higher education, institutional support, Leadership studies, Master's degree programs, mixed-methods exploratory design, nonprofit management, Nonprofit Academic Centers Council, organizational settings, qualitative


University programs that prepare students to assume professional positions must be concerned with helping students link their work in university classrooms to their work in organizations outside of the academy. This concern often translates into incorporating experiential education into application-oriented university programs. Professional preparation is a central concern of nonprofit leadership and management programs. Prior to this study, however, there was no systematic attempt to document the various experiential education strategies employed in nonprofit leadership and management master's-degree programs in the United States. Documentation was not even available for master's degree programs associated with the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC), the organization that supposedly includes the country's trend-setting nonprofit programs. This study, therefore, documented (a) the types of experiential education approaches offered in nonprofit-focused master's degree programs associated with NACC-affiliated institutions; (b) the programmatic contexts in which experiential education occurs; and (c) the programs' larger organizational settings and the different levels of institutional support for experiential education. A two-phase, mixed-methods exploratory design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007) was employed to accomplish the three goals listed above. In the first phase, qualitative interviews were conducted to explore the phenomenon of experiential education with representatives of 12 purposefully-selected nonprofit-focused master's degree programs. Selection was based on a review of websites and course syllabi from all U.S. NACC institutions; representatives from programs that appeared to be employing a wide array of experiential strategies became part of the interview pool. During the second phase, interview findings were translated into survey items; the survey was then administered to representatives of all NACC organizations (and, also, to representatives of non-NACC programs that were used for comparison purposes). The survey was used primarily to assess the generalizability of the interview results. The study revealed that experiential education strategies were being used in 97% of the programs studied, though the extent of use and the particular strategies employed differed. The study also revealed that there was limited programmatic and institutional support for developing experiential education components in graduate programs; the support that was available normally was geared toward undergraduate programs.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies