The purpose of this quantitative study was to establish a current profile of the chief student affairs officers (CSAOs) of the 23 campuses that comprise the California State University (CSU) system. This study provides descriptive data on CSAO (a) demographics and characteristics; (b) roles; (c) functions; (d) career patterns; and (e) leadership styles. The data was obtained using a 20 item questionnaire designed to address each of the five research questions, which included: (a) What are the current characteristics of the CSAO?; (b) What are the roles of the CSAO?; (c) What are the functional areas of the CSAO?; (d) What are the career patterns of the CSAO?; and (e) What leadership style do CSAOs perceive to be the most effective for their position? The population for this study included the 23 CSAOs in the CSU system during the 2014-2015 academic year. A total of 23 surveys were electronically mailed with a 70% response rate. With more than 436,000 students and 44,000 faculty and staff, the CSU system is the largest university in the United States, making the CSU a significant employer of student affairs professionals. The CSAO serves 19,650 students, reports to the president, and operates with the title of vice president for student affairs. The CSAO has served in their current position as well as their present institution for less than 5 years. This implies that the CSAO is likely to be an external appointee. The majority of CSAOs have been in the student affairs profession for more than 20 years and were first appointed to a CSAO position, at any institution, between the age of 45 to 49.9 years. An aspiring CSAO should expect to (a) acquire an earned doctorate in an educational field; (b) gain at least 10 years of professional experience in various student affairs functional areas; (c) serve as either an assistant or associate vice president of student affairs; (d) serve at the director-level of a functional area within student affairs; and (f) possess an understanding for the full range of characteristics, roles, functions, career patterns, and leadership styles most valued in the CSAO.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Student affairs administrators -- California; California State University

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Schmieder-Ramirez, June;