Within this phenomenological study, we explored the lived experiences of 15 foreign-born U.S. college and university presidents (USCUP) to determine how their cultural background and traditions may have influenced their leadership and prepared them to lead. We also examined the strategies foreign-born USCUPs, who also self-identified as people of color, utilized to navigate to and through the presidential pipeline. We used asset-based community development to theoretically frame the study. The following research questions shaped this study: 1) What are the experiences of foreign-born USCUPs in their journey to the college presidency, and how do foreign-born USCUPs perceive the influence of their cultural background on their journey to the presidency? 2) What strategies and approaches can be identified from the experiences of foreign-born USCUPs in navigating the presidential pipeline and advancing to the presidency? Five themes emerged: 1) Coming to America; 2) Living in Two Worlds; 3) Ready or Not, Here I Come; 4) Go Back To Your Country!; and 5) If I Ruled The World. We close with recommendations for practice and future research.


foreign-born, immigrants, U.S. college and university presidents, asset-based community development, phenomenology

Author Bio(s)

Kristie S. Johnson, Ph.D., CFRE, is vice president for institutional advancement at Martin University in Indianapolis, IN. kristiejohnsonphd@gmail.com

Donald "DJ" Mitchell, Jr., Ph.D., is vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at Molloy University in Rockville Centre, NY. dmitchell1@molloy.edu

Jakia Marie, Ph.D., is assistant professor of Integrative and African American Studies at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI. mariej@gvsu.edu

Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Kristie Johnson, Division of Institutional Advancement, Martin University, 2186 North Sherman Drive, Indianapolis, IN, 46218. Email: kristiejohnsonphd@gmail.com


We want to acknowledge the present article was derived from the dissertation of Kristie Johnson.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.







To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.