The conversion of an upper -division university to a four -year institution: A study in organizational change

Robert D Hradsky, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation uses a qualitative case study method of inquiry to examine the organizational change process of Washington State University Vancouver, a public upper-division university that converted to a 4-year institution. Upper-division universities---those offering only the upper-division coursework necessary to complete the baccalaureate degree---occupied the higher education landscape in small numbers dating back as far as 1859. At the height of their popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, 25 upper-division institutions existed. Due to a number of challenges surrounding the upper-division concept, a considerable number of these institutions have closed, merged with other institutions, or changed their mission to become 4-year institutions. Thirty-one faculty, staff, and administrators at Washington State University Vancouver were interviewed to determine (1) the organizational factors that influenced the change process, (2) how institutional decision-making was distributed and negotiated during the change, (3) how buy-in for the change was achieved from institutional stakeholders, and (4) the effect of the change on the university's culture and how was this managed. Data was collected and analyzed using the theoretical framework of Bolman and Deal (2003), which views organizational change holistically through four lenses: structural, human resource, political, and symbolic. Each lens draws on a variety of organizational change theories and provides an effective structure through which to view the dynamic nature of the organizational change process. Key findings of the study include the importance of developing the infrastructure necessary to support the change process long before the actual planning work begins; establishing effective communication strategies to manage the expectations of those implementing the change, minimizing the effects of campus politics by creating transparent processes and procedures that encourage cooperation among individuals and units; and preparing the campus for cultural change that honors the former institutional culture while embracing the new culture that emerges.

Subject Area

School administration|Organizational behavior|Organization theory|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Hradsky, Robert D, "The conversion of an upper -division university to a four -year institution: A study in organizational change" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3255858.