Change, leadership and co-education: A case study of Chestnut Hill College

Beth A Hagovsky, University of Pennsylvania


Chestnut Hill College is one example of the many women's colleges that are guided each year by vulnerability and hope. For decades, this small, liberal arts, Catholic women's college has struggled to fill its classrooms, which even the daughters of its own alumnae are not interested in filling. Over the past decade, the president and board looked closely at the external and internal forces driving enrollment, tuition dollars and, therefore, sustainability, and considered those bottom-line facts along with the college's values and mission as a 75-year-old institution. This is a case study about one college's road to a historic change. In October 2001, the president and board of Chestnut Hill College announced that in the fall of 2003, men would be a part of the freshman class for the first time in the institution's history. Using interviews, institutional documents, presidential speeches, marketing and physical plant studies commissioned by the college, the 2003 Middle States Report, and the college's most recent strategic plans (1999 and 2003), this study considers the internal and external factors which ultimately led to this course of change. As is the case in most transformational change processes, the leadership of the institution was a central force throughout the process. This study places a special emphasis on the president of the college who has been the key change agent, manager of the mission and creator of the vision for the college since 1992. Special consideration is also given to the faculty and the board of directors who became the president's guiding coalition from the initial stages of the change process. Using organizational change theories and Kotter's (1996) framework, this case study explores how the leadership of this college encouraged the community to embrace a set of flexible core values which was necessary in order for individuals to buy into and support the transition to co-education. Chestnut Hill's successful transition provides valuable lessons and a useful framework for presidents and other colleges considering the same alternative path to institutional viability.

Subject Area

Higher education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Hagovsky, Beth A, "Change, leadership and co-education: A case study of Chestnut Hill College" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3124686.