Date of Award

Fall 11-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Rebecca E. Michel

Second Advisor

Andrea Kayne

Third Advisor

Gene Zdziarski


Student leadership in college has long been studied from the perspective of the university, and more specifically, how the university supports its student leaders in hopes of enhancing institutional reputation. With this in mind, there is little attention given to the micro-level experience of college student leaders. As such, researchers are called to shift the rhetoric on student leadership away from an institutionally-driven conceptualization to a more student-focused discourse. The central aim of this study was to gather student leader perceptions of their roles as campus leaders and construct meaning behind those perceptions. This qualitative research study examined the phenomenology behind college student leadership and the subsequent motivation to lead. Using the Motivation to Lead framework (MTL), this study added to the already dense discussion on leadership and produced a clearer understanding as to how college students make sense of their leadership experience. Findings suggested college student leaders experience the leadership phenomenon from several perspectives; acting with intention in their respective roles, how the administration impacts their role, how prior experiences shape leadership motivation, and finally, how being of service creates increased enjoyment and motivation to continue leading. As a result of this qualitative, phenomenological study, more focused attention was placed on the student leadership experience at the micro level. The findings may support future leadership development programs, program evaluation projects, and provide a better understanding of the student-administration relationship in higher education.