Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Dr. Hillary Merk

Second Advisor

Sally Hood

Third Advisor

Rebecca Smith

LC Subjects

Leadership in women; Women college students; Transformative learning; Intersectionality (Sociology)


Women today are completing their undergraduate studies and entering careers during a time of shifting values, systemic barriers, and complex social environments. Undergraduate leadership development may positively influence women’s leadership self-concept, which includes the incorporation of their intersectional social identities with their sense of themselves as leaders. A positive leadership self-concept may empower emerging women leaders to leverage their unique leadership qualities toward overcoming barriers to advancement. This qualitative study employed hermeneutic phenomenology to develop understanding of women’s experience of undergraduate leadership development. The study included semi-structured interviews with 10 women who completed their undergraduate education 2-8 years previously and worked as professionals in higher education in the United States. Further, the study employed a theoretical framework of transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 2018)

and an intersectional lens (Crenshaw, 1989) to understand the connections between transformative experience, identity exploration, and meaningful shifts in leader selfconcept. Findings included a preference for experience-based leadership development, the value of developmental relationships with mentors, role models, and peers, and the importance of ensuring access and promoting balance for undergraduate women. Further findings included evidence of transformative learning as indicated by shifts in participants’ understanding of leadership and their leadership self-concept.


Copyright retained by the author.