Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Philo A. Hutcheson, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Carlos McCray, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Jennifer Esposito, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Roger R. Lee, Ed.D.


Student governance has been in existence as an integral part of higher education almost since the founding of the first college in colonial America. However, little is understood about the lived experience of students involved in student governance, and specifically those who participate in leadership positions within student government organizations such as the student government president. Therefore, the primary purposes of this study are to highlight experiences of students who served as presidents of a liberal arts college’s student government association and to examine the meanings these individuals construct out of their leadership experiences. This study employed qualitative methods, which included in-depth, open-ended, semi-structured interviews and journaling. The sample was made up of six students who served as student government association presidents at a small, private, liberal-arts college. From the data derived through the interview and journaling processes, an overall picture of the experiences of the participants and the meanings that the participants construct of their experiences was drawn. Based on the results, several themes regarding the participants’ experiences as student government presidents emerged from the data, which include: positive and negative facets of their presidencies, stress as a substantial element during their time in office, dissimilar experiences of women and minority students, varied experiences regarding relationships and conflicts with members of the campus community, the multiple roles required of a student government president, and personal approaches to leadership that a student government president must possess and hone. Conclusions based on the data were included and implications for student affairs practitioners were discussed as well as recommendations for further study were made.