Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dorothy Ettling


Glenn James


Susan Hall


Noah Kasraie


The purpose of this grounded theory qualitative research was to investigate how chief academic officers at five private Hispanic-Serving Institutions accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools use the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) results to improve institutional effectiveness and promote undergraduate student success. Five chief academic officers (CAOs) represented their institutions and served as a purposeful sample to qualitatively explore how they used National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) results to facilitate institutional effectiveness and promote undergraduate student success. All these private Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) participated in NSSE within a specified time frame and were located in one accrediting and geographical region. The two-phased grounded theory research established three axial relationships between the eight coded themes: Actioning (strategizing and prioritizing), analyzing (evidencing, benchmarking, and disaggregation), and culturing (institutionalizing, integrating, and participating). The grounded theory emerged as a synthesis pyramid operationalized within outcomes assessment. Findings indicated that NSSE results are utilized by CAOs in a variety of ways. These included: benchmarking educational practices and peer institutions, linking accreditation and assessment via quality enhancement and strategic plans, formulating and making decisions collaboratively, and using other assessments and results with NSSE results. Findings discovered that NSSE results were promoted more indirectly, than directly, to undergraduates while promoting and integrating NSSE survey results and that all participating CAOs would like to increase NSSE and other assessment participation rates. Also found was a lack of depth communicating what institutional or programmatic actions were taken based on NSSE results to undergraduates. This finding was used to hypothesize how survey participation rates are linked to undergraduate’s ability to make the connection between survey results and institutional actions taken based on those survey results. This linkage, if demonstrated, may inform institutional decision-making, assessment outcomes, and engagement in higher education. In need of further exploration is how other individuals and departments at levels equivalent or below chief academic officers use and make decisions based on the results. Also in need of further investigation is how lessons learned at HSIs can be applied internally and externally to other HSIs, minorities, and emerging populations.

Included in

Education Commons