Educational Administration, Department of


Date of this Version



Bachman, E. B. (2014) Doctoral Program Specialists in the Big Ten Conference. PhD dissertation, University of Nebraska.


A 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 (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Eva Burns Bachman


An increase in non-academic personnel in higher education institutions has led to the development of specialized roles for staff members. One of these roles is the doctoral program specialist.

The purpose of the study was to explore the role of doctoral program specialists in the universities of the Big Ten conference in the U.S.

The study focused on a) the work of doctoral program specialists; b) their relationships with members of the university community involved in graduate education; and c) how the administration and work expectations have changed during the past five years. Role theory provided the theoretical framework for understanding how staff fit within the larger institutional setting.

Face-to-face interviews were conducted with twenty individuals at eleven Big Ten institutions. Participants, individually or in small groups, described their positions and responsibilities. Themes that emerged from the findings were: change, work interactions, policy, and role identification.

Participants described changes in their work processes, personnel and responsibilities. Work interactions designed to support students included collaborations with administrative offices and academic departments. Work interactions with students were referred to as support and advocacy. Their work was guided by policies and the institutions' governing boards. The participants defined their roles as being a problem-solver, a middle man or anonymous.

The findings of the study may be useful in preparing individuals for roles as doctoral program specialists and in professional development activities for these specialists

Advisor: Marilyn Grady