Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. Carolyne Ali-Khan

Second Advisor

Dr. Meghan Parkinson

Third Advisor

Dr. Daniel Dinsmore

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Robert Lake

College Dean

Dr. Jennifer Kane


This dissertation is an autoethnography studying my experiences as a female high school principal in the south. Autoethnography is qualitative research that analyzes personal experiences to understand a particular culture (Ellis et al., 2011). I share my lived experiences in fictionalized composite examples to protect myself and others possibly implicated in the research (Law & Fine, 2004). Through analysis, I use feminist theories and metaphors to understand the school and community and the presence of southern culture in this school’s context. Through research, I found glass metaphors describing women in leadership roles and their obstacles (Simpson & Kurma, 2015). I found many feminist leadership theories that use glass metaphors that applied to my lived experiences: glass ceiling, glass escalator, glass cliff, glass walls, and glass slipper. Other theories applied to my research are theories around professional dress for women, role incongruency theory in gendered organizations such as education, and theories describing southern culture centered around the importance of loyalty and storytelling.

I also found it important to share lessons learned on this journey parallel to my leadership experiences. I learned leading an underperforming high school and writing a dissertation were more difficult than anticipated. I realized I was not alone in writing this dissertation or leading a high school. I learned the importance of the right fit in choosing a committee and doctoral chair and what the right fit means in leadership. I learned that both processes in writing an autoethnography and leadership are forever evolving. Also, writing about my experiences and applying theories to those experiences helped me make sense of the world and myself as a leader. Furthermore, as an autoethnography shares stories of lived experiences to make sense of the world and add to current research, I found storytelling is part of the southern culture that manifests in the school I lead.

Autoethnography is a qualitative form of research that is messy, personal, analytical, and emotional. Writing this type of qualitative research for a dissertation requires reflection, vulnerability, and applying theories to understand experiences. In adding this autoethnography to current research, I hope more leaders will learn from my shared experiences.