Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

Dorian L. McCoy

Committee Members

Joseph E. Johnson, Bob Rider, Annette L. Ranft, Kerry K. Robinson


The purpose of this single-site, descriptive case study was to study consolidation in U.S. higher education through the process perspective as posited by Jemison and Sitkin (1986). In their process perspective, Jemison and Sitkin posit that four impediments may occur during the consolidation process that can directly impact the outcome of the consolidation. These four impediments are expectational ambiguity, escalating commitment, activity segmentation, and the misapplication of management systems.

Research questions guiding this study are focused on why consolidations take place in higher education, how outcomes are measured, and how decisions made during the consolidation are aligned with the stated purposes of the consolidation. This study included document analysis and interviews with students, staff, faculty, and administrators from an institution that had been created through a recent consolidation. Participants were selected from both pre-consolidation institutions and the State System of Higher Education.

This study presents the experiences of a number of faculty, staff, administrators and students as they navigated the complex processes involved in consolidating two higher education institutions. Through their story and applying the process perspective of consolidation (Jemison & Sitkin, 1986), important themes regarding consolidation emerged.

The first theme is the role uncertainty can play in organizational dynamics, especially at a time of significant change such as consolidation. The second is that clear, consistent communication can help in both easing uncertainty and ensuring that those involved in implementation make decisions consistent with strategic objectives. The third is the importance of actively managing change. While exhaustive planning may take place, there will be unforeseen challenges and it is vital to manage that change instead of letting the change occur through the path of least resistance. In conclusion, the usefulness of the process perspective of consolidations towards institutions of higher education is discussed, along with the implications of this study and topics for future research.

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