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ERIC Number: ED522139
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 169
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1243-3807-1
An Organizational Theory Approach to Transition: The Wheaton College Move to Coeducation
Idema, Amanda G.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University
The 21st century has been a time of major change for women's colleges (Calefati, 2009; Harwarth, et al, 1997; Powers, 2007). From an all time high of close to 300 in operation, now less than 100 exist (Calefati, 2009). The decade of the 1980s saw a convergence of a perfect storm of challenges: declining birth rates that produced fewer college-going young people, a decrease in young women interested in single-sex education, and an economic recession that left tuition driven campuses in crisis (Chamberlain, 1988; Reisberg, 2000). While some women's colleges chose to close, others made tough decisions to ensure survival (Salamone, 2007). One of these colleges, Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, opted to admit men and pursue coeducation as a way to expand enrollment, improve the quality of the student body, and avoid certain closure. The purpose of this study is to explore, from an organizational theory perspective, how decision making is made and communicated on a college campus within the context of a major organizational change. Recognizing that each organization is unique and has a very specific set of inherent challenges and restrictions, this study does not attempt to generalize, but rather uses the case of Wheaton's transition to coeducation as a way to identify challenges, outcomes, and lessons learned for future decision making. Through a traditional case-study method (Creswell, 2007; Merriam, 1998; Stake, 1994; Yin, 1984) this study examined, in depth, the two year period of decision making and transition on the Wheaton College campus. Key administrators during this period were interviewed, as well as a full analysis of documents created during the same time frame. Four research questions guided this study: (1) what environmental and institutional factors prompted the move to coeducation at Wheaton College; (2) how were decisions made and communication handled to guide the transition; (3) what organizational strategies could be used to explain the transition to coeducation; and, (4) what lessons learned from the Wheaton College transition can be used by other institutions facing similar circumstances. The data collected from interviews and document analysis was analyzed using a variety of organizational theories. The main framework employed was Quinn and Cameron's (1983) work on the four stages of organizational change and adaptation. Additional theories in the areas of population ecology, niche theory, and organizational communication provided additional points of analysis. At the conclusion of this study, several areas of future research are presented, as not all aspects of the transition to coeducation could be included in this study. Additionally, implications for administrators, faculty, Boards of Trustees and alumnae/i are presented. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts