The Graduate School has awarded the 2022 Distinguished Dissertation Award to Alise Chabaud Hagan, Ed.D in Educational Leadership. The award recognizes exceptional work by doctoral students that exemplifies the highest levels of scholarship, research, and writing.
Hagan earned her doctorate of education in educational leadership from the College of Education in Spring 2021.
Her dissertation, “Women Presidents of Higher Education Institutions: A Mixed-Methods Phenomenological Study of the Relationship Between Self-Efficacy, Transformational Leadership, Gender-Based Barriers, and Support Structures,” examines the experiences of women who served as presidents of higher education institutions in the southeast.
The topic was inspired by her personal experiences in higher education.
“From my undergraduate experience and all through my graduate programs and professional career in higher education, I have been fortunate to be mentored by dynamic women,” Hagan says.
“I saw what was possible for women to lead in higher education, and realized that there was a pathway for me too.”
Hagan has worked in higher education for nearly twenty years, and joined the UL Lafayette community in 2008. She has served as the University’s director for the Office of Institutional Assessment, and is currently an instructional designer for the Office of Distance Learning.
While completing the doctoral program in educational leadership, she “kept coming back to the fact that fewer than 30% of all college presidents in the United States were female; and in the southeast it was even fewer at 23%,” she explains.
“I was curious to learn more about those women who had reached this particular pinnacle of their career, as well their leadership pathways and efficacy, and what (if any) gender-based barriers they encountered.”
Her research examines the lived experience of women university presidents across barriers at the individual, institutional, and societal levels.
“In the face of challenges or new situations, they relied on their past experiences and achievements, the experiences of others, and their emotional connection to the task at hand to navigate or overcome the situation. In so doing, these women developed a high level of self-efficacy through years of experience facing and overcoming adversity,” Hagan says.
“Yet even though they demonstrated high levels of self-efficacy, they were hesitant to recognize it in themselves, focusing instead on the continual pursuit of professionalism and a drive to become more efficacious,” she notes.
Hagan’s research “is both timely and relevant,” says Dianne Olivier, professor and assistant vice president for academic affairs, who served as Hagan’s dissertation chair.
As many current presidents approach retirement, higher education institutions have the opportunity to develop a pipeline of diverse leaders to fill these roles.
Looking forward, Hagan hopes to see higher education institutions expand mentoring and professional development opportunities to support women in pursuing leadership roles.
“This research identified gender-based barriers most frequently cited by women presidents at the institutional-level, including exclusions from informal networks, discrimination, male organizational culture, and salary inequality. My hope is that higher education practitioners acknowledge the barriers and their impacts on women’s leadership journeys,” she says.
Hagan published an article based on her dissertation in Research Issues in Contemporary Education in 2022. The article was awarded the 2022 Louisiana Education Research Association's Rayma Harchar Outstanding Research Paper Award.
Hagan’s presentation of her research at state and national conferences earned “high-level engagement of audience members expressing their interests, concerns, experiences, and triumphs,” Olivier says.
As Hagan observed, women in leadership roles today are doing their part to improve pathways and offer support.
“In dedicating time to build up future leaders, these women are ensuring the leadership pipeline will be robust and well-prepared. In short, they are helping to change culture and the future of higher education – what an exciting time!”