Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version

July 2008


Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Major: Educational Studies. Under the Supervision of Professor Barbara LaCost.
Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2008
Copyright (c) 2008 Melody Schopp.


This qualitative multi-case study was a life-history of three women leaders in the state of South Dakota. The purpose of the study was to explore the career pathways of three female leaders in educational and political fields in South Dakota. Specifically, I sought to identify the events and opportunities guiding them to their positions of leadership in the traditionally male-dominated culture of South Dakota. In this study I identified the leadership characteristics that these women embraced along their journeys. I identified the support systems for these women and in doing so, it may be possible to look at ways of increasing support for others. I examined the barriers these women faced in the conservative culture in South Dakota and in doing so, it may be possible to better educate others on how to address barriers, perceived or real. This information may also assist ambitious women in realizing the opportunities they have in South Dakota.

Resources used consisted of participant observations, in-depth interviews, and reviews of numerous related written materials. Triangulation was used to validate the findings of the data collected. The data were coded, analyzed and synthesized such that themes developed.

Themes were developed to identify the specific characteristics common to these women leaders: The characteristics of hard work, confidence and high expectations were foundational, and they continued to guide women on their paths through the unexpected twists and turns. The characteristics of courage, ambition and caring were intuitive as these women progressed along the leadership path. Foundational to these women’s success, however, was the support of family and the time period in which these women were raised. Additionally, unique characteristics formed the distinctive personalities and stories that unfolded throughout their treks through their personal labyrinths.

As a result of the study, it was concluded that South Dakota holds immeasurable opportunities for ambitious females with their sites set on achieving leadership success as they traverse their individual paths throughout their labyrinths.

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