Published Research

Here is the abstract to my journal article co-authored with my doctoral adviser, Paul Goldman, PhD: “Universities as Communities of Fate: Institutional Rhetoric and Student Retention Policy” published in the Journal of Educational Administration, v43 n1, p86-101, 2005.


Purpose: What is the rhetoric that higher education institutions use when they develop and publish policies to improve student retention? Using the organization literature on institutional environments, this study examines the nature and evolution of institutional rhetoric used by three public universities in a single state over a 20-year period. Consistent with the intent of the larger volume, this study provides an example of how the frameworks and concepts provided by organization theory can be used to complicate thinking about educational organizations. Design/methodology/approach: Stinchcombe’s definition of institutions as “communities of fate” and key concepts from the organizational ecology and institutional literatures provide the framework for this study. Using a qualitative methodology, over 2,800 retention-oriented statements were used as study data. These were analyzed using codes generated from the institutional theory and student-retention literatures. Findings: Study data suggest that, while each institution developed a unique, defining identity over time, an institutional isomorphism emerged around student-retention in these same institutions. This ideology centered on the creation of a “caring and student-friendly” campus environment and played an important role in the development of student-retention policies on each campus. Originality/value: Research in student retention theory and policy has almost exclusively studied retention practice and student persistence. The research for this paper was deliberately designed to operationalize theoretical concepts in organizational ecology literature and to examine their manifestation in universities over time. (Contains 3 tables.)

ERIC#: JE802828



Waggoner, D. and Goldman, P. (2005).  “Universities as communities of fate: Institutional rhetoric and student retention policy.”  Journal of Educational Administration, v43 n1 p.86-101.

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