Master of Arts in Higher Education (MAHE) Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Skip Trudeau

Second Advisor

Dara Berkhalter

Third Advisor

Ashley Chu

Distinguished Theses



Encountering crises is inevitable when working with people, and while higher education institutions tend to operate in systems, unique circumstances call for unique responses. This study sought to understand the experiences of a university president and the surrounding community after experiencing a campus crisis.

This study utilized the 2006 van accident at Taylor University as a case study. The researcher used a phenomenological case study approach and design to interview thirteen people who were directly involved as administrators, senior level leaders, student development faculty, academic faculty, staff, students, or members of the board of trustees. The findings of this study describe aspects of the crisis management that worked well for Taylor University at that specific time. The results show specific leadership qualities of Dr. Eugene and Mrs. Marylou Habecker, the president and first lady at the time of the accident. Themes relating to their personalities, their actions, and how they involved other people were the most prevalent. Additionally, the results show how Taylor University, a unique campus culture of student-focused faculty and staff, contributed to the specialized crisis response, including being well prepared. Furthermore, the findings emphasize the role that the Christian faith played in how the institution and individuals experienced this crisis is paramount to understanding the motives behind decisions that were made and their impact. Additionally, the study provided principles for other administrative leaders who experience crisis in their institutions. This research will inform policy and practice for how to approach crisis leadership during a specific case but may be applicable and transferrable to a variety of circumstances that may appear at colleges and universities around the world.