Campus Location

Dallas Campus (Online)

Date of Award

11-2020

Department

Educational Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Committee Chair or Primary Advisor

Kristin O'Byrne

Second Committee Member or Secondary Advisor

Jennifer Duffy

Third Committee Member or Committee Reader

Jaime Goff

Abstract

Faculty, staff, and administrators in higher education have experienced rising stress levels due to an increasingly turbulent environment amid constant change and uncertainty. In particular, academic middle managers experience increasingly high demands and significant stressors in the ever-changing landscape of higher education. Most research that addresses stress among academic middle managers has focused on the management of stressors and emphasized the need for additional training and technical support rather than how to address adaptive challenges. However, emerging research has provided promising evidence of the positive effects of mindfulness in reducing the perception of stress and enhancing resilience, both of which support the importance of adaptive challenges and improve job-related and organizational outcomes.

Despite the recent rise in mindfulness scholarship from the Eastern perspective, there is a dearth of literature on the relationship between Langer’s (2014) construct of socio-cognitive mindfulness, resilience, and stress. This quantitative correlational study aimed to understand how socio-cognitive mindfulness predicts perceived stress among academic middle managers in higher education and whether the relationship between mindfulness and perceived stress is mediated by resilience. Academic middle managers within four-year U.S. institutions of higher education—department chairs, associate/assistant deans, and deans—were recruited via email, and a total of 163 participants completed an online survey. Since the researcher collected data during the initial response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, supplemental questions were included and addressed the satisfaction of the institution’s response to transitioning to an online teaching, learning, and working environment as well as work stress and overall stress levels amid the pandemic. Findings indicated that socio-cognitive mindfulness predicted perceived stress at a statistically significant level, and resilience fully mediated the relationship between mindfulness and stress. In addition, results identified that socio-cognitive mindfulness, resilience, and perceived stress levels were higher among academic middle managers than other populations in previous studies. This study was the first to indicate that higher socio-cognitive mindfulness levels resulted in lower perceived stress and that socio-cognitive mindfulness may be a direct path to reducing stress and an indirect path by building resources like resilience. Discussion and recommendations that consider the COVID-19 pandemic’s influence on the results and implications are also addressed.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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