Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

On Mission and Political Purpose in Higher Education Institutions: How Two Jesuit Universities Responded to the Complexities of DACA
by Zervanos, Vana M., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2019, 209; 13901955
Abstract (Summary)

Throughout American history, higher education institutions have confronted political and cultural events that challenge society. The academy, as the nexus of the pursuit of knowledge and of a prosperous society, must recognize its potential role in the political process, lest the health of our democracy weaken. Recent political issues, such as those surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy of 2012, have profoundly impacted students and stirred the attention of colleges and universities. Leaders of higher education institutions can and should seize the opportunity to respond to such issues, especially during an unsteady and vulnerable time in government. In an effort to understand the phenomenon of higher education institutions’ engagement in politically charged cultural matters, using DACA as an example, this study explores two essential research questions:

• What are the ways in which Jesuit institutions and their leaders have responded to DACA?

• How did these leaders leverage their mission in order to navigate through this complex, divisive, and value-laden terrain?

The study was conducted using a case-study method and cross-study analysis. Georgetown University and Loyola University Chicago, two institutions that have been highly responsive to DACA, provided the data for this study. The primary means for gathering data included personal, telephonic, and Skype interviews with institutional leaders (trustees, ex-trustees, presidents, faculty, chief academic officers, alumni, and administrators), as well as with past and present leaders of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU). I also collected data from archival materials, including presidential speeches and position statements, university mission statements, and university publications. Drawing from the work of Marc Lavine, I examined the ways in which conflicting values intersect with institutional responses to national political events. The contributions of Robert Birnbaum also provided the backdrop for how presidents led their institutions and the interpretive and instrumental approaches in doing so. The study found common characteristics and differences in how leaders at the two institutions responded to DACA, how internal and external forces figured in their calculus, and how institutional missions informed their decision making.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hartley, J. Matthew
Commitee: Grossman, David, Russell, Stephanie
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education Management
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Higher education, Higher Education Administration
Keywords: DACA, Engagement, Jesuit, Leadership, Public policy
Publication Number: 13901955
ISBN: 9781085648127
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