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University of Vermont Theses & Dissertations

Format:
print
Author:
Marquart, Christopher Paul
Title:
Exploring the Reciprocal Relationship Between a Comprehensive Living-Learning Program and Institutional Culture: A Narrative Inquiry Case Study
Dept./Program:
DEPARTMENT HERE
Year:
Degree:
EdD
Abstract:
Over the past 50 years, living-learning programs (LLPs) have emerged as a dynamic curricular innovation in higher education. These programs are residentially based, seeking to seamlessly integrate the classroom and residence hall environments and blur the traditional boundaries between the academic and residential experiences for students (Kuh, 1996; Inkelas & Soldner, 2012). However, efforts to implement LLPs at some campuses have been met with resistance; this is not surprising, as institutions of higher education are often charged in part with preserving cultural and social norms, therefore making them naturally resistant to change (Shapiro & Levine, 1999). One of the most common challenges facing colleges and universities that seek change is a tendency for institutional culture dynamics to be potentially divisive and foster internal conflict (Kuh & Whitt, 1988). Such conflict impacts faculty, students, and administrative subcultures. Institutional partnerships that can overcome divisive cultural dynamics have the potential to greatly enhance the campus climate (Nash et al., 2016). This qualitative research study asks the overarching question, “How does institutional culture influence the creation and development of an LLP and, in turn, can an LLP reciprocally shape institutional culture?” This case study examines the internal conflict and cultural implications related to the founding of a comprehensive first-year residential college system at St. Lawrence University – a small, private liberal arts institution in the Northeast. Utilizing Kuh’s & Whitt’s (1988) Framework for Analyzing Culture in Higher Education, as well as Schein’s (2004) Conceptual Model for Managed Culture Change, this study collected data through historical document analysis, as well as narrative inquiry interviews focusing on the artifacts, values, assumptions, and beliefs of the campus community. In-depth interviews were conducted with faculty and administrators who played key roles in the foundational years of this LLP, as well as with faculty who opposed the program. The findings of this study demonstrate how preexisting cultural conditions heavily influenced the creation and development of the LLP. This study also identifies the ways in which several deeply entrenched cultural conditions changed, indicating this comprehensive LLP fostered a relational capacity to facilitate institutional culture change.

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