Date of Award

Summer 8-23-2021

Document Type

Dissertation - University of Massachusetts Global access only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Keith Larick

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Clark White

Third Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Lee


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative research was to discover and describe how exemplary private, nonprofit college and university presidents accomplish common ground and attain breakthrough results through the utilization of 6 domains of conflict transformation: collaboration, communication, emotional intelligence, ethics, problem-solving, and process. This research was achieved through the examination of the lived experiences of higher education presidents with firsthand experience of conflict transformation. These outstanding academic executives were selected through a criterion sample based on their background, knowledge, and experience.

Methodology: The data collection of this thematic, phenomenological study included one-on-one, open-ended personal interviews that considered the experiences, perceptions, and interpretations of these successful leaders and their understanding of how to work through and transform conflict to establish common ground. This becomes particularly important considering the challenges and opportunities manifested in a fluid and dynamic higher education landscape impacted by global and campus seismic cultural and economic shifts leading to the significance of the role of private university and college presidents.

Findings: The literature and findings of this research study supported the use of the conflict transformational behaviors of collaboration, communication, emotional intelligence, ethics, problem solving, and process in order to transform conflict and achieve breakthrough results. The information and results of this study were combined with the findings of the other researchers within the thematic team who were studying exemplary leaders and finding common ground in other professional fields.

Recommendations: Further research should be conducted to discover if these conflict transformational behaviors pertain to other leadership positions within private, nonprofit colleges and universities. Furthermore, a study should be utilized to determine whether these transformational behaviors also apply to private, nonprofit presidents and other leadership positions in other geographical areas and also comparing institutions to each other past and present.