Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Sheryl Cowart Moss, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Yinying Wang, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

William J. Nichols, Ph.D.


In response to the pressures of globalization, internationalization has been driving change in higher education over the past decades. Most internationalization frameworks consider world language and intercultural education essential to a 21st-century global education. While many U.S. institutions of higher education (IHEs) are increasingly dependent on tuition revenue, enrollment numbers in language programs across the U.S. declined 15.3% from 2009 to 2016. Given the need for academic departments to generate tuition revenue to remain viable, dwindling world language enrollment in most U.S. higher education institutions is a pressing issue that warrants further investigation. Drawing on both a network theory of group social capital and social network leadership theory, this mixed methods survey-based study of world language department chairs explored the mechanisms that drive student enrollment in postsecondary language programs within the networked and relational paradigm of 21st-Century higher education. Specifically, this research investigated to what extent entrepreneurial leadership behaviors of academic department chairs and the accumulation of social capital within networks that include of an institution’s internal and external stakeholders affect enrollment in their programs, and whether social network leadership and P-12 outreach form suitable strategies to maximize relevance and visibility of the unit. The final sample comprised 1,311 world language departments at 923 IHEs across the United States; a total of 283 valid survey responses from department leaders were received. The findings indicated that enrollment in language programs is affected by complex dynamics that include “a host of non-system actors or intermediaries who play roles in the spread of knowledge, information, and other resources” (Mamas & Daly, 2019 p. 45). This research aimed to shift the focus of inquiry from a traditional upper leadership perspective to the department level and investigate the impact of social networking on departmental viability. It further bridges the gap between secondary and postsecondary education and may inform leaders at both P-12 schools and IHEs as to the significance of school-university partnerships and provide ways for leaders to build social capital for their programs.