Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Bernice Garnett


In my previous role as the Assistant Director for Campus Programs at the University of Vermont, (UVM) I noticed fewer and fewer college men pursing leadership opportunities during their time in college. Student affairs practitioners and scholars recognize the benefits and enhanced outcomes students gain by participating in meaningful activities in college (Astin, 1984; Dugan, 2006; Komives et al., 2005; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Quaye et al., 2019; Tinto, 1987). When college men are responsible for higher numbers of conduct violations, sexual misconduct issues, and high risk drug and alcohol use in college (Harper & Harris, 2010; Young et al., 2017), we face a crisis on two fronts; lack of positive leadership role modeling and unhealthy negative behaviors manifesting in college.

Guided by constructivism as its epistemological foundation, this qualitative study uses Marcia Baxter Magolda’s (2001) theory of self-authorship as its guiding theoretical framework to explore the motivations of college men to pursue leadership roles and how they made meaning of their gender through their college leadership experiences. Through semi-structured interviews with 10 college men aged 19-22 in leadership roles at the University of Vermont, I studied how students developed epistemological, intrapersonal, and interpersonal foundations through leadership roles in college, and whether their views of masculinity were impacted by participating in leadership roles. To guide students in a deeper reflection of their motivation to pursue leadership, participants drew leadership life maps from the start of their involvement journey in high school to their current college leadership role. Finally, to transition the conversation from leadership and motivation to gender, participants engaged in the gender box activity to explore external and internal expectations of masculinity, and further reflected how they learned for themselves “how to be a man”. Throughout both exercises, participants were asked questions framed in self-authorship’s three dimensions of development: How do I know what I know?; Who am I?; and What is my relationship with others?.

The aim of this study was to explore why some college men pursue leadership roles, and how they were challenged to make meaning of leadership and masculinity through these formalized positions. Results reveal various motivations to pursue leadership, positional leadership roles led to developmental growth in three domains of self-authorship, and participants experienced the most change in their meaning making around gender and masculinity through informal, peer-led environments. Findings from this study provide student affairs practitioners with knowledge to recruit men into leadership roles in order to provide healthier alternatives to the destructive behaviors that negatively impact campus communities. I also make suggestions on how to best facilitate deeper meaning-making capacities for college men around leadership, motivation, and masculinity.



Number of Pages

155 p.