Date of Award

Fall 10-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Sherry DeVore

Second Advisor

Dr. Rhonda Bishop

Third Advisor

Dr. Hal L. Higdon


The role of a community college president’s spouse can be an important one in the life of the college and in the success of the presidency, yet the role itself is often vaguely defined. This can cause frustration for a college president’s spouse because he or she experiences ambiguity by not knowing the expectations college stakeholders hold of the spousal role. This study explored the role uncertainties held by community college presidents’ spouses, the strategies they used to navigate their new role, and the conflicts they experience in the role as presidential spouse. A qualitative, grounded theory design was selected for this study and was framed through the perspective of role theory and sense-making. Interviews with 17 community college presidents’ spouses in two Midwestern states were conducted. Data analysis resulted in the emergence of three major themes: (a) feelings of ambiguity about the spousal role, (b) attempts to make sense of the role through engagement with others, and (c) feelings of a loss of identity. These findings were consistent with other studies conducted within the scope of role theory and sense-making. The grounded theory approach, however, produced a new finding: Most of the presidents’ spouses identified a profound and personal emotional investment in their role.


Copyright 2013