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College Administrators as Public Servants


  • Daniel James Palmer is director of institutional research for the South Dakota Board of Regents in Pierre, South Dakota. His research focuses on education policy and analytic techniques. E-mail:


This article deploys Q methodology in an exploration of the public service orientation in the context of American postsecondary leadership. Thirty-seven senior college administrators were asked to rank a series of statements regarding the administrative values, motives, and attitudes that underlie their own subjective views on administrative conduct. Analysis proceeded in two stages: (1) factor analysis of the administrative perspectives offered by participants and (2) qualitative comparison of these perspectives to extant scholarly portrayals of the public service orientation. Results indicate the existence of two dominant perspectives among participants. Factor 1, Societal Trusteeship, is fundamentally oriented toward the needs of external society and expresses a willingness to leverage institutional resources to improve the human condition. Factor 2, Organizational Stewardship, by contrast, is an internally oriented perspective that emphasizes institutional performance. Importantly, the factors are not dichotomous and suggest considerable cognitive complexity in the professional orientations of college executives.