Dr. Jennifer Carlo is a 2014 graduate of the Ph.D. Program in Leadership & Change at Antioch University

Dr. Jennifer Carlo at her Dissertation Defense, Yellow Springs, Ohio, August 1, 2014

Left to Right: Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Member ; Dr. Jennifer Carlo ; Dr. Alan Guskin, Committee Chair

Not Shown : Dr. Theodore Marchese, Committee Member ; Dr. Mary Marcy, External Reader


Jennifer Carlo, PhD, has spent more than twenty-five years in the fields of higher education student affairs and nonprofit management. She is currently the Vice President for Student Engagement and Dean of Students at Carlow University.


higher education, leadership, higher college presidency, colleges; universities, failed presidencies, higher education administration, presidential arc, college presidents

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This comparative case study defined and examined the presidential arc at three small, private colleges in the Northeast. The study of an institution's presidential arc is proposed as a more effective means of assessing the success or failure of higher education presidencies than examination of a single presidency in isolation. The presidential arc, a concept introduced in this study, is defined as a comprehensive and integrative examination of: each individual presidency, or, at institutions with a history of short-term presidents who left little impact on, groups of presidencies; the level of success of each presidency, as determined by a definition shared with all correspondents or interviewees; the institutional culture, history, and self-defined "saga" and environmental factors that significantly impact presidencies or institutional history (i.e., enrollment trends, the national or regional economy, trends in curriculum, shifts in the national higher education culture, etc.). Comparative examination of touchpoints (common or parallel themes or events) in each of three arcs yielded four broad themes with wider implications for success and failure in the higher education presidency: founding president syndrome/evolving role of the academic presidency; institutional saga/insularity of small schools with distinctive cultures; competing cultures in modern higher education; and legitimacy of the presidency and individual presidents. The study concludes with a set of recommendations for institutions to take collective responsibility for the success or failure of their presidencies: redefine our expectations of the presidency; jointly plan for success; understand and use the concept of the presidential arc in searching for new presidents; and change the way we search for presidents. This ETD is available in open access in Ohiolink ETD,, Center and AURA