Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Chair; Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Member; James R. Kitchen, EdD, Member


empirical study, extrinsic benefits, intrisic benefits, higher education, Leadership studies, Quest for the Best award, San Diego State University (San Diego, CA), student leadership awards, university-issued awards


Within academia there is an elaborate and extensive system of awards for both students and faculty (Frey, 2006). Although the majority of student-based awards are for outstanding leadership and related accomplishments, there has been virtually no research on the impact of receiving such a leadership award (Frey, 2006). Due to the conspicuous absence of empirical studies in this area, a significant knowledge gap exists regarding the possible value or positive effects associated with winning a university-issued student leadership award. To begin to fill this knowledge gap, this study examined the San Diego State University (SDSU) Quest for the Best award program that has been around since 1987 and produced a total of 222 winners. Using a 35-question survey designed specifically for this purpose, former winners were asked to rate the extent to which they benefited both intrinsically and extrinsically, and then variation in these benefits were decomposed using multiple regression analysis into demographic factors, academic discipline, and length of time since the award was won. After the elimination of 25 undeliverable surveys, the final sample consisted of responses from 125 former winners for a response rate of 63%. Survey findings reveal that the typical winner was a white female based in the College of Sciences. In addition, award winners benefited more intrinsically than extrinsically from winning the award; in particular, the highest scoring intrinsic effects were feeling proud and recognized for their involvement; affirmed of their impact on campus; an increase in leadership capabilities and self-confidence, a stronger connection to their faculty/staff honoree; and a stronger affinity to SDSU. Leading extrinsic effects included listing the award on their resume, wearing the medallion at commencement, and help with admission to graduate school. Taken together, the effects were most likely to occur within a short timeframe of winning the award and seemed diminished for those earning a middle/upper class salary ($75,000 - $124,999). Based on these findings, some recommendations for future research include conducting longitudinal studies of award winners to examine their career trajectory, comparing award winners to non-winners, and finally, collecting a comprehensive national database of university leadership award winners.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies