Date of Award

Spring 4-12-2022

Document Type

Dissertation (799 registration)

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Boyd Bradbury


merger, communication, grounded theory, leadership, community college, rural


Merger is rapidly becoming an approach to addressing the enrollment and financial challenges posed to higher education in the wake of recent demographic shifts and funding changes in the United States. This study focuses on a district of rural community colleges in a Midwest, unionized state college system that is in the process of merging into a single institution. The main locus of the study is on the communication perspectives of leaders during this merger and the changes that it engendered. Eight leaders were interviewed to examine the following questions: Q1) Which communication strategies do leaders at five different public institutions utilize in an attempt to create the most faculty and staff buy-in during the process of college consolidation?; and Q2) How do these strategies align with Bolman and Deal’s Four Frames of Leadership: structural, human resource, political, and symbolic? A grounded theory approach was utilized to construct a process by which these leaders communicated through change. Ultimately, five themes arose as aspects of the communication approach during merger: 1) Coaching and Guiding, 2)Timeliness, 3) Tailored Messaging, 4) Acknowledgement of Messiness and Imperfection, and 5) Trust in the Process to form the Theory of Dynamic Interactionism. The themes within the theory align with the need to balance a large-scale structural change with the other areas of Bolman and Deal’s framework: human resource, political, and symbolic, with the emphasis on human resources and political frames of change. Although this work is focused on a single system, this process could be utilized to guide merger work in other fields, outside of education, as well as other college systems.



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