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Perceptions of campus subcultures at a community college

Claudia R Bell, Johnson & Wales University


Culture, defined as the visible organizational behaviors and practices; the espoused values that represent organizational philosophies and understandings; and the values and core beliefs that construct the philosophies represented by organizational action, is formed over decades as institutions learn to respond to challenges associated with their establishment, and continued existence (Schein, 2004). Mergers, which have been used by leaders to address issues related to survival and growth often do not consider culture and add another dimension of complexity to the faculty and staff sub-cultural experience of organizational life (Buono & Bowditch, 1989). Scholarly research related to mergers and academic governance, infrastructure, financial systems, and external relations is available, but very little guidance exists in the understanding and management of the cultural dimension of mergers in higher education (Buono & Bowditch, 1989; Harman, 2002). This study seeks to add to the knowledge base in an area where there is a lack of in-depth research on how faculty and staff subcultures at the community college level perceive the organizational culture following a merger. The purpose of the study was to uncover faculty and staff perceptions by addressing the following research question: How do community college faculty and staff subcultures perceive the organizational culture following a campus merger? A phenomenological approach was chosen and information was gathered through interviews (N=16), and document analysis. Interview transcripts were analyzed in order to "build a coherent justification for themes" (Creswell, 2003, p. 196) and document analysis was employed as a tool to verify that information was consistent with or contradictory to other findings (Patton, 2002; Yin, 2009). The findings from this study were explored using Martin's (2002) three perspective analysis and revealed the following: all participants perceived the new building as being good for morale and a symbol of college moving forward; and agreement was found across the subcultures that the us/them paradigm was beginning to diminish, but there was a sense that it was resurfacing as a divide based on discipline. There was also some ambiguity about where responsibility resided for changes to rules and structures that influenced the alignment of practice and philosophy.

Subject Area

Community college education|Social structure|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Bell, Claudia R, "Perceptions of campus subcultures at a community college" (2010). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3408901.