Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD; Johanna S. Hunsaker, PhD; Robert Donmoyer, PhD


academic achievement, closed-cohort, empirical study, explanatory sequential mixed methods study, faculty, graduate students, higher education, Interpersonal bonds, Leadership studies, mixed-cohort, open-cohort


Student cohorts have been regaining popularity among graduate programs over the past few decades because they offer numerous advantages for students and can be molded to fit programmatic needs. The format of these cohorts range from open to closed according to the inclusion or exclusion of additional students during the life of the program. Although a number of graduate level programs employ a mixture of closed- and open-cohort formats, there has been a lack of empirical research examining the benefits or consequences of mixing cohort formats within a single academic program. To address this lack of inquiry, this study utilized an explanatory sequential mixed methods research design to explore how students and faculty from 4 cohort groups of 2 similar graduate business programs assessed how a mixed-cohort format, where students started a program in a closed-cohort and moved to an open-cohort after the first academic term, impacted students' individual learning and development as well as the nature of their relationships—including the development of interpersonal bonds—with their initial cohort members and others in the program. The findings gathered through 57 student responses to an electronic survey and interviews with 9 students and 3 faculty members suggest that there may be many ways of successfully mixing cohort formats. Students valued their time in the closed-cohort, suggesting that the closed-cohort positively impacted students' academic achievements as well as the development of student relationships, yet their thoughts regarding the ideal length of time with the closed-cohort varied. The two main disadvantages associated with starting the program as a closed-cohort—a lack of exposure to diverse experiences and limited networking opportunities—were identified as the main benefits of moving to an open-cohort. This study also compared different orientation events and found, consistent with the literature, that orientation events occurring off-campus away from distractions had more success in helping students develop stronger relationships than orientation activities occurring on or near campus. The findings of this study suggest that mixing cohort formats may increase the advantages associated with cohort-based programming and indicate that graduate programs have flexibility in mixing cohort formats to meet program needs.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies