Educational Administration, Department of


First Advisor

Molly Belieu

Date of this Version

Spring 4-2021


Belieu, M. (2021). Career progression and the Imposter Phenomenon: Experiences of female student affairs leaders. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.]


A DISSERTATION Presented to 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: April, 2021

Copyright (c) 2021 Molly M. Belieu


This study explored the experiences of women leaders who graduated from a student affairs master’s degree program, and advanced to positions of vertical movement to roles of increasing responsibility, wider influence, and greater accountability. Specifically, exploration of this progression, and the influences on their experience of lateral movement, including the impostor’s syndrome. Three themes emerged from this study: (a) the influence of relationships on career progression, (b) navigating the structures of higher education, and (c) experiences of the Imposter Phenomenon. The results of this study can support student affairs preparation programs as they determine the competencies necessary to prepare professionals for navigating a career of progressive leadership and influence in higher education. Additionally, the results of this study can help university administration as they support student affairs professionals. Finally, the results of this study provide considerations for women as they consider carees in higher education. Considerations for organizational structures, succession planning, peer support channels and how to best support that important population on college campuses. Future research opportunities are also discussed as they relate to understanding progression experiences of student affairs professionals.

Advisor: Marilyn Grady, Ph.D.