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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Being division chairs : a hermeneutic phenomenological investigation into the experiences of academic middle managers in a Canadian college Denholm, Julia Elizabeth


This hermeneutic phenomenological study investigates the experiences of a group of academic managers (the division chairs) at South City College (SCC), a primarily university-transfer post-secondary institution in Vancouver, Canada. Written from the perspective of a participant-observer, this case study research reveals the myriad ways in which the division chairs’ leadership and management aspirations were confounded by institutional systems and attitudes that had not evolved in response to changes in the post-secondary climate in British Columbia and elsewhere. The experiences of both the division chairs and contextual participants were gathered in a series of one-on-one interviews transcribed by the author. Interpretative phenomenological analysis of the data revealed that both a commitment to the collegial model and responsibility for repetitive clerical duties act as primary obstacles to leadership success for the division chairs. The author’s role as a division chair during the time of data collection and analysis provides particular and specific insight into the division chairs’ experiences during a time of institutional transition. Recommendations include that the institution should invest in administrative and systems support for the division chairs. Doing so would reinforce that the division chair role is a valued component of the institution’s collegial culture; would relieve the division chairs of any clerical tasks identified as not essential to their role; would free the time necessary for the division chairs to lead and manage collegially; and would potentially resolve the problem of the division chairs having enormous responsibility but no authority by allowing for the consultative processes that characterize a well-functioning collegial institution.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada