Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Policy entrepreneurship: A descriptive portrait of higher education leaders
by Felsher, Rivka Aliza, Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University, 2015, 317; 10095899
Abstract (Summary)

As the gap between the haves and have-nots widens, the call for reform in higher education in the United States intensifies. Policy actors, philanthropists, and academics from across the political spectrum work on various policy solutions, creating a policy environment that is complex and often contentious. Incrementalists claim that major policy reform is unlikely since unknown variables and inexplicable events can stall or dismantle policy initiatives. In such environments, policy entrepreneurs—those individuals who advocate for policy innovation, work for change, and help shape policy solutions from within and without government—try to break through the barriers of incremental politics. As important as this role is to the influencing and structuring of higher educational policy, it has not yet been explored. This study fills this gap in the extant literature by cataloging the characteristics and skills that enable higher education policy entrepreneurs at the state and national levels to persevere and accomplish sustainable and innovative higher education reforms over time.

The study employed a descriptive, revelatory, single-case study research design (Yin, 1994) interpreted from the postpositivist paradigm (Creswell, 2007). The major source of data, drawn from 23 interviews with policy entrepreneurs from across the United States, was triangulated with document reviews and a multi-level coding strategy. Then the data were framed by the research questions and juxtaposed against nine propositions extracted from the extant literature to derive the study findings.

The policy entrepreneurs in this study are creative political leaders with a passion for improving educational opportunity. They are adaptable, pragmatic on details of policy shaping, and use the means available to them to influence. Policy entrepreneurs don’t work in isolation; rather, they are network dependent. They value collaboration and seek to develop relationships and create opportunities to advocate for policy innovations that benefit students before institutions or organizations, taking calculated risks with interminable patience, and making sacrifices for their cause. They have learned to listen, compromise, reach across the aisle, strategize, and recognize windows of opportunity. They work hard to build credibility and trust. Workplace mentorships and peer relationships are a major source of their learning and development.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Pisapia, John
Commitee:
School: Florida Atlantic University
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 77/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Educational leadership, Public policy, Higher education
Keywords: Creative political leadership, Higher education leadership, Higher education policy, Policy entrepreneur, Policy innovation
Publication Number: 10095899
ISBN: 9781339600758
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