Institutional Decision-Making and Restructuring to Develop Seamless Learning Environments: A Dual-Site Case Study Analysis

Ryan M Travia, University of Pennsylvania


The field of student affairs has evolved in significant ways since the late 1890s with the appointments of the first deans of men and deans of women (Sandeen, 2000). From managing student behavior to holistic student development, learning outcomes, and presently, to student success, student affairs scholars and practitioners have identified emerging trends and modified services to meet new demands and the changing needs of an increasingly diverse student population (Sandeen, 2001; Nuss, 2001; Tull & Kuk, 2012). While focusing on supporting the whole student and the academic mission of the university has remained fairly constant, little guidance has been provided regarding restructuring, particularly among institutions that are “blurring the lines” between student and academic affairs. This dissertation explores the phenomenon of institutional decision-making about restructuring at two private, selective, small to mid-size institutions that have attempted to leverage the connectivity between student and academic affairs in the pursuit of developing seamless learning environments. A dual-site case study analysis, consisting of 30 interviews with presidents, provosts, chief student affairs officers, senior staff, faculty and other decision-makers who led the change process, as well as key stakeholders and those who were impacted by the change, provides insights into who makes these decisions, how they are made, what factors were considered as part of the change process, and what the impacts were on people and systems. One case analyzes restructuring the residential life system at a premier liberal arts university; the other case examines restructuring an entire organization around the student lifecycle at a premier institute of music and performing arts. The findings suggest that while organizational structure matters, leadership matters more. Both institutions found success in their respective restructuring efforts, though went about managing change in very different ways. Be it through a framework that unifies an organization around a common mission and vision or by creating opportunities for students to get to know their faculty outside of the classroom, blurring the lines between the in and outside of the classroom experience is all about creating the conditions for a successful and transformational experience for our students.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Educational leadership|Organizational behavior

Recommended Citation

Travia, Ryan M, "Institutional Decision-Making and Restructuring to Develop Seamless Learning Environments: A Dual-Site Case Study Analysis" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28001251.