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Exploring the Culture of Decanal Search Processes: A Search for Excellence



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Academic deans are uniquely positioned in universities and play an important role in their organizations (Twombly, 1992; Wolverton & Gmelch, 2002). Despite the importance placed on this role, there has been little attention paid to the processes by which academic deans are identified and recruited (Twombly, 1992).The purpose of this study was to explore the culture of decanal search processes in one traditional research university. This exploration considered the views of a number of organizational culture scholars that included Schein (1985, 1992, 2004), Trice and Beyer (1993) and Hallett (2003). These views coalesced in a conceptual framework of organizational culture created by Allaire and Firsirotu (1984). This research was conducted within a qualitative paradigm (Creswell, 2007; Klenke, 2016) underpinned by philosophical assumptions that situated me in an interpretive paradigm (Burrell & Morgan, 1979). The processes of research included case study (Yin, 2003) and constructionist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2009). The primary source of data consisted of interviews and focus groups with individuals who participated in a decanal search between 2014 and 2017 (inclusive) either as a member of, or as a consultant to, the search committee. Findings from the data revealed that research participants described their experiences as frustrating and overwhelmingly negative. Individually, research participants understood decanal search processes from the lens of their own experiences with other search and/or collegial processes and there was scant evidence to suggest any collective understanding of search processes. What was revealed was that research participants expected decanal search processes to be something different than they were. Constructive and critical insight gained from research participants resulted in several suggestions for refining decanal search processes. Through consideration of the Allaire and Firsirotu (1984) framework what started as an exploration of culture in decanal search processes turned out to be an exploration of decanal search processes in organizational culture. This resulted in an exploration of the interrelated components of organizational culture and the extent to which they are mutually supportive and harmonious, or not. Implications for practice, theory and research reflected refinements to decanal search processes, positioning culture as an object of study more broadly, and focusing more scholarly attention on decanal search, and other related, processes.



Academic deans, deans, university, higher education, search processes, recruitment, organizational culture, culture



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Educational Administration


Educational Administration


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