Kim H. McNamara, Ph.D. is a 2009 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Carol Baron, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Richard Couto, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Jean MacGregor, Ph.D., Committee Member


sustainability, higher education, colleges, universities, leadership, transformative change, environmental, green, mixed method, strategic planning, community engagement, collaboration

Document Type


Publication Date



As evidence of the earth’s limited capacity to sustain human life mounts, institutions of higher education are being looked to for leadership in the effort to educate students about environmental concerns and support the development of sustainable innovations. Colleges and universities are responding to this call for leadership by starting and/or expanding environmental research programs, integrating sustainability issues throughout the curriculum, adopting sustainable operations, and building green facilities. Reflecting upon the sustainability efforts of these institutions, this research study explores the following questions: What factors are essential for initiating and leading a successful change effort to foster sustainability in higher education? What processes guide higher education institutions in efforts to deeply and comprehensively implement sustainable changes? A sequential mixed-methods research design was used to gather data from questionnaires administered to 86 colleges and universities in the United States implementing sustainability programs, from interviews with 20 individuals who are guiding the change processes at ten different institutions, and from archival records documenting the initiatives and outcomes at these colleges and universities. After the data had been analyzed to identify common themes, factors and change process strategies, the results of the analyses were examined in relationship to existing models of change in higher education. Significant correlations were found between the change strategies used and the support systems provided by these institutions and the level of progress achieved on the sustainability initiatives. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,