Graduate programs and institutional change at a small private institution

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University of Alabama Libraries

Although the overall organization of small private institutions is often reminiscent of the earliest colleges in American higher education, the overall structure of these institutions have not been static. Significant changes in higher education funding, student populations, and workforce demands exert pressure on small institutions to compete and to survive. Many have displayed a remarkable sense of ingenuity and adaptability in the face of a constantly changing environment. In the early years of the 21st century, there is no indication the need to adapt is abating. The number of master's degrees earned in recent years has grown dramatically in small private non-profit institutions. For many primarily undergraduate institutions this has created challenges. Significant changes in educational philosophy often cause the faculty, staff, and administration to question their roles in supporting change at their institution. This study examines how different institutional constituents deliberate changes to the core ideals of a private college in the south when faced with the prospect of growing graduate students enrollment. The concept of Collective Sensemaking frames this study. Data on mid-level employees' experiences with change were analyzed by comparison to Rouleau and Balogun's (2011) findings on discursive sensemaking activities. Data indicated the two critical roles employees identified with were those of the supporter and the leader. It was also revealed that employees created consensus through the use of informal and formal verbal activities, and these activities were influenced by the institutional context. The third finding was that reaching consensus required changes on personal and professional levels, and in their perception of the institution and its environment.

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Educational administration, Higher education administration, Continuing education