Date of Award

Winter 2008

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Higher Education

Committee Director

Dennis Gregory

Committee Member

Linda Bol

Committee Member

Alice McAdory


This study explored first- (subordinates) and second-level (managers) student affairs professionals' perceptions of managers' skills and abilities (N = 193). Participants in this study were members of the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators, National Association for Campus Activities, Association of College an University Housing Officer-International, and the Association on Higher Education and Disability in Virginia. Two instruments were used for the study: (1) Demographics, collecting demographic information and qualitative data, (2) Survey of Management Practices, which assesses managers' skills and abilities.

The respondents were predominantly Caucasian (82%), female (62%), between 26–40 years old (72%), and held a master's degree (78%). Sixty-one percent of respondents were managers, of which 85% supervised three or fewer full-time employees and 55% had attended 1–5 training sessions on management.

Managers' perceived their performance as higher than average in the following areas: making goals clear and important, planning and problem solving, facilitating the work of others, feedback, reinforcing good performance, interpersonal relations attribute, and group motivation and morale attribute, time emphasis and delegation. Additionally, perceptions of their skills did not differ significantly based on gender, ethnicity or the number of training sessions attended on supervision. Performance management, differences in staff, and time were the three most challenging aspects of supervision identified; while providing feedback/evaluations and communication were the two areas needing improvement.

First-level professionals perceived managers' performance in all skill areas as average, and was found to be significantly lower than managers' self-perceptions in all skill areas. This difference in perception of managers' skills and abilities suggests training programs on skills associated with effective management are needed to improve second-level professionals' performance. First-level professionals perceived workload and a lack of resources as the most challenging aspects of supervision; the skill areas identified as needing improvement were communication and professionalism.

The results of this study indicate a need for further research on the perceptions of second-level professionals' skills and abilities. Furthermore, the results can be used as a foundation for enhancing training and development programs for student affairs supervisors.