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An Investigation into the Role of Chief of Staff in a Higher Education Setting

David C Hood, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


As of late, regulation and increased scrutiny of Higher Education (HIED) has caused a shift in campus operations, and, correspondingly, in HIED chief executives’ duties (Nelson, 2009). As a result of these demands, trends suggest that a new approach in supporting HIED executives now goes beyond that of a clerical staffer and instead demands a second in command—chief of staff. According to the National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education 2014—Member Survey, 15% of all members have the title of chief of staff (COS) on their campus. Those identifying as COS in this member survey increased 4% from data collected in the 2012 survey. Being that this support role is growing and insignificant work has been done to professionalize it, an exploratory study was conducted. The purpose of this study was to understand the role of a chief of staff in the higher education setting within the organization and what traits and personalities does one need to be successful in the role. Thirteen higher education chiefs of staff who report to their campus president or chancellor were interviewed. Interviews were conducted to offer better understanding of the roles assumed by chiefs of staff in the office of the campus president/chancellor. The interviewees came from a variety of institutional types, size and location within the United States. Findings from this study led to an initial typology of the position that was dependent on four themes extracted from data collected in interviews. The four themes are: Duties of the COS; Personality of the COS; Traits of the COS; and the COS in their Organization. Each theme, enhanced by multiple sub-themes, creates a basic understanding of the role of chief of staff and establishes a need for additional scholarly work in professionalizing the role of chief of staff in Higher Education.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration

Recommended Citation

Hood, David C, "An Investigation into the Role of Chief of Staff in a Higher Education Setting" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10615912.