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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The community college mission: History and theory, 1930–2000
by Meier, Kenneth M., Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2008, 461; 3336699
Abstract (Summary)

This study is a multidisciplinary historical analysis of the national junior-community college mission debate in the twentieth century. It utilizes resource dependency, institutional and social movement theories to explain the organizational behaviors of the community college as these relate to the concept of mission. Historians of the colleges note that the first junior colleges were established without clear missions or a plausible theoretical framework to rationalize their educational activities and social purposes. Growth in concern about the mission and identity of the community college parallels movement expansion.

A common conception among community college scholars is that the colleges are non-traditional, non-specialized by design, and mandated to provide a comprehensive curriculum to their communities. Practitioners tend to focus on the ideas of openness, access, and responsiveness to community needs. Historically, there has been little consensus among practitioners, advocates, and academic researchers about the educational outcomes and social significance of the colleges. Practitioners and critics often speak past each other because they employ incommensurate units of analysis and possess conflicting or unexamined assumptions. As a result, these multiple lenses of analysis lead to multiple understandings (and misunderstanding) of the community college mission.

This study analyzes how and why the junior college was transformed from a minor extension of secondary education to an expansive, ubiquitous national institution embracing a fungible, even amorphous, comprehensive mission. It contextualizes two questions posed by George Vaughan: Why do even the community college's most articulate and intelligent leaders have difficulty explaining its Proteus-like characteristics? Why is it difficult to explain to the public in simple and understandable terms the twin towers of community college philosophy: open access and comprehensiveness? (1991a, p. 2)

Two additional questions guide this research and lead to the investigation's findings: (1) How can organization, institutional and social movement theories clarify the mission problem? (2) What is the impact of postindustrial change on the contemporary community college mission?

This study employs historical methods, grounded theory, and case study methodology to elaborate and explain organizational behavior and to uncover previously ignored characteristics of the national community movement.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Levin, John, Rhoades, Gary
Commitee: Deil-Amen, Regina, Lee, Jenny
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Higher Education
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Community college education, Education history
Keywords: Community college, Mission
Publication Number: 3336699
ISBN: 978-0-549-90425-0
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