A governing board's evolution to effectiveness: A South Dakota Board of Regents case study

Marilyn McCorkle Fowle, University of Pennsylvania


This research analyzed how a governing board of a public multi-institutional university system changed from 1980–2004. The focus of the study was the South Dakota Board of Regents, a small, stable system that experienced a noticeable change in its effectiveness. Study questions were: What changed in the Board's role to make it more effective? What caused the Board to change? When and what were critical junctures that led to any changes? Who were the key players and what role did they play? The conceptual framework for the study included research on public multi-institutional university governing boards' competencies (Myers, 2000; Chait, Holland & Taylor, 1991), boards being the intermediary between policymakers and the universities (Berdahl, 1971; Glenny, 1959), and control/coordination and autonomy (Berdahl, 1971). The method for the case study was document review and interviews. Thirty-seven interviews were conducted with Regents, university presidents, Board staff, Governors and their staff, and press from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. The results of the study show that effectiveness increased through administrative excellence, improved political communications, and the establishment of greater trust and stability within the Regental system and it constituents. The Board improved its competencies in all three areas of relevance: political, strategic and analytical (Myers, 2000). The greatest gains appear to have been made in the political competencies, also determined by Myers to be the most important for public boards. Control and coordination of the system increased, while the universities decreased autonomy, and achieved greater uniformity in these areas: information systems, lobbying with the legislature, and academic accountability. Although all of the universities regretted the loss of autonomy, interviewees agreed on the overall increase in effectiveness and efficiency of the system.

Subject Area

Higher education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Fowle, Marilyn McCorkle, "A governing board's evolution to effectiveness: A South Dakota Board of Regents case study" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3168024.