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Cosmopolitans or locals: Who will lead the next generation of community colleges?

Melanie Oakes Anderson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Scholars have identified a potential community college leadership crisis as a large percentage of community college presidents prepare to retire (Shults, 2001; Weisman & Vaughan, 2007). The most common pathway to the community college presidency has been through the chief academic officer (CAO) position (Vaughan, 1990). Selection of future leaders often focuses on manifest social roles or the expectations that are universally shared and relevant to a given context (Grimes & Berger, 1970). Latent social roles are the internalized shared expectations that are not always seen as relevant on face value, but are predicted to affect an individual‘s attitudes and behaviors (Gouldner, 1957). The purpose of this quantitative study was to determine if there was a relationship between Gouldner‘s (1957, 1958) theory of cosmopolitan and local latent social roles and the selection of the public community college CAO, as well as the CAO‘s job satisfaction, intent to turnover, and intent to pursue a presidency. The population studied was 932 public community college CAOs in the United States; 293 responses were received. The research reported that CAOs had higher local latent social role scores and lower cosmopolitan scores. A significant positive correlation was identified between CAO's with local latent social roles and higher levels of job satisfaction. Cosmopolitan CAOs were negatively correlated and local CAOs were positively correlated with an intention to pursue a presidency. There was a significant difference in community college size, the number of locations, age and the CAO‘s local latent social role. There was a significant difference in the state population and in married or divorced marital status and the CAO's cosmopolitan latent social role. CAOs with a local latent social role may be a good match for the organization when stability is needed; a CAO with a cosmopolitan latent social role may be a better match when significant change is needed. CAOs may also balance their cosmopolitan or local latent social role tendency through self awareness and professional development opportunities.

Subject Area

Community college education|Educational leadership|Management|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Anderson, Melanie Oakes, "Cosmopolitans or locals: Who will lead the next generation of community colleges?" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3449400.