Tyler Guy Olson, Ph.D. is a 2023 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Tyler Olson at his Dissertation Defense.

From L-R: Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Chair, Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Member, Dr. Richard McGuigan, Committee Member.

Dissertation Committee

  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Lize Booysen, DBL, Committee Member
  • Richard McGuigan, Ph.D., Committee Member


higher education, leadership, constructive-developmental theory, subject-object interview, critical incident technique, multicase study, academic leaders, conflict resolution, organizational change, empathy, perspective-taking

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Navigating departmental and organizational conflict is an essential function and responsibility of an academic unit leader (dean, associate dean, director, or chair) in higher education institutions (HEIs). During periods of organizational change, conflict tends to increase in complexity and difficulty—in part due to resistance to change—making it more difficult to manage in a constructive manner (Marcus, 2014). Much of the literature that looks at the academic unit leader and conflict focuses on personal conflict styles (or modes), types of conflicts encountered, and training on techniques and skills for conflict resolution and management. Missing from the literature is research that examines academic leaders’ constructive-developmental mindsets (i.e., meaning-making structures) when dealing with and navigating conflict within their division (or institution) and the relationship between one’s developmental mindset and their approach to engaging and navigating complex conflict. This study examines how nine academic unit leaders construct meaning when experiencing and navigating conflict situations amid organizational change (which HEIs experienced at an unprecedented level in 2020 and 2021). Additionally, it examines the relationship between how one constructs meaning and their capacity for constructive engagement and navigation of conflict. The primary finding from this study supports the hypothesis that academic leaders who demonstrate complex developmental mindsets hold a greater capacity to engage and navigate complex conflict situations in more deliberate and potentially constructive ways. Additionally, data from the research supports the notion that as an individual develops an increasingly more complex developmental mindset, their capacity for cognitive empathy (i.e., perspective-taking) increases. The study employed a multimethod approach, incorporating multiple case studies and a modified critical incident technique. Data were collected through the Subject-Object Interview (Lahey et al., 2011), a modified critical incident interview, and a loosely-structured closing interview. Each of the nine leaders participated fully in all three interviews in this order. This exploratory study contributes to the continued scholarly discussion on leaders navigating conflict and change in HEIs. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA ( and OhioLINK ETD Center (


Tyler Guy Olson

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0002-6554-5277

Tyler “Ty” Olson, PhD, is driven by meaningful and mission-driven work aligned with his values. He finds deep meaning in supporting efforts and organizations committed to adult education and development, that promote social equity and justice, and empower individuals and communities to engage conflict constructively and thrive.

Ty currently serves as an interim Associate Dean of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences of the Metropolitan Campus of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cleveland, Ohio (since November 2022). Additionally, he manages the Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies program at Tri-C, which he has overseen since 2013. In addition to serving in these roles, he regularly adjunct teaches courses on conflict engagement (i.e., conflict resolution, management, and transformation), peace studies, and civic engagement and service learning. He is a founding partner of (re)Frame Conflict, LLC (est. 2018), which works with individuals and organizations to support constructive and equitable processes for engaging and addressing conflict. Much of his work as a practitioner and consultant over the past decade has focused on identity and values-based conflicts within organizations and communities (i.e., race, religion, gender, and politics).

Ty grew up in the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon states) and then relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, in early 2013 to work at Tri-C. From 2007 to 2009, he worked as an English literature teacher at a bilingual middle school in Honduras, Central America. This experience solidified his passion for education and inspired him to pursue a career focused on conflict resolution and transformation. In addition to living in Honduras for two years, he has traveled extensively in Latin America, Africa, and North America.

From 2021 to 2022, Ty participated in the Cleveland Leadership Center’s Advanced Leadership Institute program, which “provides mid-level, community-minded professionals the space, skills, knowledge, and connections to collaborate on creating experiences that transform our community for the better.” In 2022, he received the American Association of Political Science (APSA) Community College Faculty Award for teaching and work in conflict resolution and peace studies at Tri-C and in the community.

In addition to a PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, Ty holds an MA in Leadership and Change from Antioch University (2020), an MA in Conflict Resolution, with a concentration in Peace and Justice Studies from Portland State University (2012), and a BA in Religion from George Fox University (2007).

Ty’s core aim is to empower individuals and organizations to critically understand political, social, and interpersonal conflict to support individuals and communities in reframing conflict as an opportunity for constructive change and growth at the individual, organizational, and community levels.