Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Marybeth Gasman


Trust is necessary to legitimize good relationships and good relationships are necessary for good governance (Kezar, 2004). Literature also suggests that social capital and networks create and establish trust (Fukuyama, 1995, Leana & Van Buren III, 1999; Orr, 1999; Beaudoin, 2011). In short, trust comes from relationships, networks, and shared connections that create comfort or familiarity with a person. This study aims to discover how trust is established during the decision making processes of boards of trustees at HBCUs. This study also aims to understand more about the role and effect of individual board members on the work of the board. The question central to my inquiry is, how does the composition and value system of board members at private church affiliated HBCUs, particularly AME affiliated HBCUs, affect the decision-making process?

Using a multi-site case study approach, board members of three AME church affiliated HBCUs were interviewed regarding their paths to board service, their experiences as board members, their individual and collective roles as board members, what they consider important concerning their roles as board members, and the presidential selection process. Major findings from this study are that personality and character traits of presidential candidates may have a heavier influence on the perception of candidatesâ?? suitability than their resume or past performance. Furthermore, there is a direct reflection of board membersâ?? values in the personality and network traits found desirable and non-desirable in presidential candidates. These shared values create a sense of trust between board members and candidates. This indicates that board composition is important, not merely due to the access to networks members possess, but also due to membersâ?? individual value systems. Values and value systems find themselves intertwined in the evaluation of presidential candidates and the work of the board. Recommendations are made for board of trustees at similar institutions to ensure boards are high performing, effective and efficient in the decision making process. Though this data is not generalizable to all private church affiliated HBCUs it lays a foundation for future researchers to explore the role of the boards and board composition at similar institutions. This research begins the conversation of how board composition can plays an important role in strategic planning and the selection of presidents.