The influences of leaders and organizational cultures in sustained multi-agency community college partnerships

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Julie Vidotto (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Meagan Karvonen

Abstract: Multi-agency partnerships can be a key element in sustaining growth and outreach in higher education, and the literature clearly indicates the increasing number and diversity of collaborative structures occurring on today’s college campuses. However, partnership construction is a complex endeavor and attempts often fail for many reasons, including lack of support, unclear communication, cultural misunderstandings, and misalignment of goals and expectations. The purpose of this study was to explore the influences of organizational leaders and cultures on the work of sustained, multi-agency collaborations in which community colleges were one partner. In more fully understanding these two influences, higher education leaders may better nurture environments for successful collaborations. The study was grounded in a conceptual framework based upon current literature in educational partnership development and implementation, and organizational culture and leader impact. The study was then guided by four research questions that addressed the influences of institutional leaders on partnerships and on cultures, and the influence of cultures on collaborations. Cases for the study were identified through a state-wide nomination process, and three diverse, multi-agency partnerships were chosen to examine. A qualitative approach informed and directed data collection, which included individual interviews with 15 participants, five meeting and event observations, and document and artifact analysis. Data analysis was an iterative, ongoing process using a series of coding activities that combined all data sources. A collective case study methodology was used to allow emergent themes to appear from the coding, with regard to more than one partnership and contextual environment. Throughout analysis, the themes arose from data, reformed and clarified until a layered structure of findings became clear. The study proposes several findings of significance. One finding states that similarities between the cultures of the organizations and the partnerships may contribute to success; however, differences between organizational cultures does not equate to a lack of success. Another finding indicates that a participant’s affinity to partnership mission and values may be linked to collaboration success. A third finding draws a link, both directly and indirectly, between specific leader actions in support of partnership work and success. While the study confirms some previous research, it also illustrates additional topics for future consideration. These include the impact of leader change, value of succession planning in partnerships, and how, within the college structure, participants may influence the organizational leader. The study concludes with implications for future research and recommendations for community college administrators and educational leadership training programs.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2014
Corporate culture -- North Carolina -- Case studies
Community colleges -- North Carolina -- Sociological aspects -- Case studies
Community colleges -- Social aspects -- North Carolina -- Case studies
Community and college -- North Carolina -- Case studies

Email this document to