Date of Award

Summer 4-8-2023

Document Type

Dissertation - University of Massachusetts Global access only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Jeffrey Lee

Second Advisor

Marcie Plummer

Third Advisor

Cheryl-Marie Osborne Hansberger


Purpose: The purpose of this ethnographic study was to identify and describe how California community college financial aid leaders are culturally responsive in their leadership strategies, based on Horsford, Grosland, and Gunn’s (2011) Culturally Relevant Leadership Framework.

Methodology: This study identified and described culturally responsive leadership strategies among 15 financial aid leaders at California community colleges. Participants for the study were selected based on meeting a specific set of criteria. The researcher collected data through semi-structured interviews and artifacts, then analyzed and coded the data to identify themes and findings.

Findings: The findings were divided into four dimensions, professional duty, personal journey, pedagogical approach, and political context. Examination of the qualitative data from the 15 California community college financial aid leaders indicated eight major findings and one unexpected finding.

Conclusions: The study drew eight conclusions to provide deeper insight into the culturally responsive leadership strategies of California community college financial aid leaders. The conclusions included considering the perspectives of marginalized student populations when reviewing financial aid policy; supporting formal and informal learning opportunities for financial aid leaders; ensuring financial aid offices are present in decision making spaces; developing strategic partnerships with student support programs; understanding the needs of marginalized student populations; fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment; making psychological safety a priority in staff meetings; practicing self-reflection.

Recommendations: Further research is recommended to replicate this study in other higher education settings; a meta-analysis of the six groups of California community college leaders associated with this thematic study; replication of this study in financial aid leaders from the California State University and the University of California sectors; research on the leadership development of California community college financial aid leaders; research on the development of cultural agility in financial aid leaders; a comparative study on community colleges in other states; a retrospective study on retired financial aid leaders; a study investigating the impacts of federal financial aid policy on underserved community college populations.