Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Philo Hutcheson - Chair

Second Advisor

Wayne J. Urban

Third Advisor

Dennis N. Thompson

Fourth Advisor

Sheryl A. Gowen


This dissertation provides historical insight into the design and implementation of one strategic plan of a public higher education system in an effort to inform future similar strategic planning processes. On July 1, 1994, the Board of Regents appointed Stephen R. Portch the ninth Chancellor of the University System of Georgia. The timing was advantageous because then Governor Zell Miller was determined to leave his legacy as Georgia’s “education governor,” and in those prosperous economic times, the Governor was eager to pour money into the university system. The regents selected Portch because they recognized his potential to lead the system through a period of unprecedented transformation. They were looking for a leader with vision, and they saw that in Portch. The goal of the Portch chancellorship was to move the University System of Georgia into the national forefront, and he achieved this objective via strategic planning. The strategic planning process occurred in three phases. The first phase was the development of a vision statement; the second stage was the ratification of 34 guiding principles; and the final stage was implementation of the plan. This dissertation provides an analysis of the strategic planning process and its resulting policy directives. Using historical research methods, I carefully examine the primary goals the strategic plan set forth, and whether and how it met those goals. Further, I examine Portch’s leadership style, identifying both strengths and weaknesses, as well as how his leadership influenced the success of the plan. Using oral history methods, I interviewed the Chancellor Emeritus as well as members of the Board of Regents and the University System Office staff who played key roles in the development and implementation of the strategic plan. I also interviewed faculty members, students, and legislators to solicit their perspectives on the Chancellor, the plan, and their legacy. In the mid-1990s, the university system benefited greatly from the synergy of having a unified board, a supportive governor and legislature, and a booming economy. These conditions enabled Portch, a chancellor with a vision and strong leadership skills, to move the system forward significantly in a relatively short time.