Wright, Theresa Ann
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Trustees are the stewards of U.S. higher education institutions. The governing boards on which they serve have ultimate oversight for colleges and universities making them the linchpins in the governance structure of American higher education. It is with boards of trustees that final fiduciary and social responsibility for institutions of higher education rests. Yet, given their primary position in the governance of and authority over US higher education, comparatively little research is devoted to the study of higher education governing boards, as works on higher education governance tend to highlight other players. This dissertation aims to counter this trend by focusing on trustees at the elite Association of American Universities (AAU) member institutions in the United States and exploring how gender impacts and influences trusteeship at these prestigious research universities. By focusing on elite AAU schools and female trustees, I hope to shed light on how the leaders in U.S. higher education link to the market economy, how these connections are influenced by gender, and how gender shapes the performance of trusteeship at elite schools. Because the literature on trustees is lacking, I draw on multiple theoretical frameworks and literatures to explore trusteeship and to frame my study. No one theory or framework overwhelmingly guides the study, as I use several lenses to help me make sense of the work trustees do. Informed by the theory of academic capitalism, organizational theories, and liberal, critical, and post-structural feminisms, I argue that trusteeship is always already gendered male. In addition, I suggest that assumptions about what constitutes a good trustee are tied to assumptions about masculinity and about men in the market economy. I argue that most positions on governing boards are not imagined as feminine spaces, but a few feminized spaces do exist. Maintaining these gendered spaces helps to reify trusteeship as male by allowing us to legitimize female participation in certain aspects of trusteeship even while we continue to imagine the work of trustees as a “masculine” pursuit.