Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The transformation of a Florida community college into a state college: A case study of the impact on institutional culture, mission, & identity
by Hagen, Lisa J., Ed.D., The Florida State University, 2012, 294; 3519404
Abstract (Summary)

A case-study was designed to assess the extent of change at a selected Florida community college that transformed into a state college. The purpose of the investigation was to explore how the transformation influenced institutional culture, mission, and identity based on the perceptions of faculty members and administrators. Data collection included open-ended and semi-structured interviews with faculty and administrators to ascertain their perceptions of institutional culture. Observational data were collected from the physical environment; artifacts and architecture; ceremonies and traditions, and administrative meetings to increase understanding of cultural identity. Triangulation of data integrated state, institutional, and personal document analysis with interviewing and observational methods.

The research was designed to assess any shifts in institutional culture, mission, and identity through the following constructs: symbolic, organizational, perceptive, and interpretive layers of cultural meanings. The research plan was a deliberate observation of the symbolic layer of culture within a naturalistic setting, as well as an investigation of participants' behaviors for the perception layer, substantiated by an in-depth analysis of documentation on mission, vision, and policies. After deliberate observation, investigation, and inquiry into the symbolic, perceptive, and organizational layers of institutional culture, faculty and administrators were interviewed about the beliefs, values, and shared meanings on institutional identity and cultural meaning. Hence, the interpretive layer provided a comprehensive portrait of a community college that had transformed into a state college from the words of the participants.

Environmental factors that contributed to the transformation of a former community college into a state college involved student demographics, economic impact, and political dynamics. With the initiative to expand access to underrepresented students, the transformation into a baccalaureate institution involved the following external influences: shifts in Florida's higher education policy, community demands, and student needs. Another research finding involved institutional mission shifting in the following ways: baccalaureate programming expanded access for students, and the college expanded its recruitment area beyond the two-county region. The findings revealed that the college preserved elements of its historical mission through a commitment to instruction, provision of a quality education, and service to the community. However, the transformation in mission resulted in misconceptions by college members as well as the larger community, for expectations exceeded opportunities provided by the institution. College members believed the college needed to remain committed to providing a quality education for everyone; however some speculated that the college mission had shifted because of the emphasis on baccalaureate education and new accreditation status.

A deliberative change process was designed and implemented through leadership strategies; including a reorganization of the administrative structure, a plan to reconstruct and renovate the college campus to appear more like a university, and the development of cultural opportunities more reflective of a university environment. Although these changes occurred in rapid succession, faculty and staff reported incremental changes, thus exposing a conflict in perspective on institutional identity in which some members believed the college had experienced little change while others perceived the college moving in a new direction. Individual values included access, affordability, opportunity, commitment to the community and the student, and a quality education. Institutional values involved enhancement of student and faculty support services, technology tools, and instructional delivery methods. College administrators revised professorial rankings, emphasized rigorous academic standards, and hired PhD-qualified faculty. This cultivated a shift in faculty dynamics, creating a tension between those who had served the college community for many years and those who had recently joined the college community.

Although the college preserved values fundamental to the community college mission, members continued to adjust to the new baccalaureate institutional identity. While determining their role within this new higher education tier, they experienced several challenges; including incongruence in the open enrollment mission between the associate and baccalaureate-level programming; accreditation issues concerning academic requirements and criteria; program costs and sustainability; and faculty issues. As the institution moves forward with its baccalaureate identity, it will be important to cultivate a fully developed Student Affairs Division for additional support services and cultural opportunities; design and implement dormitories for residential life; sustain and develop the Learning Technology and Learning Resources Departments; address the faculty issues of workload, salary, research, and shared governance; and develop additional four-year degree programs to expand access.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Beckham, Joseph
Commitee: Rice, Diana, Schwartz, Robert, Wetherell, T.K.
School: The Florida State University
Department: Educational Leadership & Policy Studies
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 73/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Higher Education Administration, Educational leadership
Keywords: Baccalaureate programming, College administration, Community college, Florida, Institutional identity, Organizational culture, State colleges
Publication Number: 3519404
ISBN: 9781267523334
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