Leadership in context: A case study of presidential effectiveness in a state university system

James R Johnsen, University of Pennsylvania


The University of Alaska System experienced more than a decade of decline from 1986 to 1998. Those years were precipitated by the loss of a third of the system's state revenue which led to major system restructuring and substantial declines in student enrollment, faculty, and staff. By 1997, the system was unraveling and its ability to respond to the higher education needs of the state was severely impaired. In 1998, the University's Board of Regents hired a new president and by 2005, the university was back on its feet--revenues were up, faculty and staff positions were filled, new academic programs were producing graduates in high demand occupations, research effort was growing, enrollment was on the rise, and the public's opinion of the university was improving. This is a study of the role of a particular leader and his effects on the responsiveness of a university system to the needs of its state. In the context of the organizational and political conditions that developed in Alaska between 1986 and 1998, this study examines the new president's initial steps and offers a detailed consideration of the organizational, political, financial, and other initiatives that resulted in the university's increased responsiveness to its state's needs. The limits of the process and its implications also are considered. This study is informed by the literature on change in higher education--especially Burton Clark's work on the entrepreneurial university and Bolman and Deal's organizational frames--and is designed to contribute to our knowledge of how a particular approach to leadership can be effective in a certain context, one shared at one time or another by numerous state university systems across the United States.

Subject Area

Higher education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Johnsen, James R, "Leadership in context: A case study of presidential effectiveness in a state university system" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3209995.