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A Force-Field Analysis on the Organizational Landscape Influencing Presidential Decision-Making at Small, Private, Liberal Arts Colleges in Iowa
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This study serves the purpose of understanding presidential leadership and the forces that either restrain or influence their decision-making for change and adaptability at six small, private, liberal arts colleges (SPLACs) in Iowa. By utilizing a qualitative framework to gather knowledge utilizing Kurt Lewin’s Force-Field Analysis, this study provides current and future presidents with evidence of leadership challenges that are relevant to managing dynamic organizations. Three research questions directed this study: 1) What have been college presidents’ experiences leading small, private, liberal arts colleges in the 21st century?; 2) How accurate is Earl Cheit’s 1970s liberal arts assessment for Iowa’s small, four year, highly residential (S4/HR) college presidents in 2012, and what, if any influence, does it have on their decision-making and leadership?; and 3) Which driving and restraining forces impact presidential decision-making at these S4/HR colleges with regard to achieving sustainability of the liberal arts mission in the 21st century? Based on the participants’ responses, six themes emerged that identify the experiences and forces that impact these college presidents relative to their institutional environments: a) 21st century technology; b) curriculum expansion; c) consumer shifts and demands; d) demographic changes; e) affordability and financial constraints; and f) alumni, board, and donor support. Based on the data collected and analyzed, the results of this study show that for these S4/HR institutions in Iowa to stay competitive while addressing the influencing and restraining forces pertaining to their decision-making, presidents will have to develop new initiatives to address the following: an alternative financing formula for sustainable long-term budgeting through peer institutional collaboration and auxiliary services, curriculum expansion in high growth sectors, and endowment development; enhancement of partnerships among fellow undergraduate and graduate programs to institute and support a consortium network, including public/private partnerships among non-sector industries; increase of recruitment efforts to regional and national middle school students in growing demographic regions while enhancing program support for the growing nonwhite majority through specific targeting of high-growth zip codes around the country; working more intentionally among the Iowa Association for Independent Colleges and Universities (IAICU) to overcome the presumed misperception that a private liberal arts education is only for the affluent and highly talented; and being the leaders in renewing our country’s commitment to educational outcomes versus the commodification of the degree. Overall, while working to proactively solve these issues, these presidential participants have deep satisfaction in leading Iowa’s SPLACs. Although budgeting was discussed significantly, all six presidential participants were unable to provide a long-term alternative finance mechanism outside of the current practices of short-term tuition-discounting.
Parker, Gerald Coleman (2013). A Force-Field Analysis on the Organizational Landscape Influencing Presidential Decision-Making at Small, Private, Liberal Arts Colleges in Iowa. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from