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ERIC Number: ED547059
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 245
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2675-1840-8
Distinctive Resources and Systemic Diversity: The Role of Signature Events in Higher Education
Freed, Gwendolyn H.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Minnesota
Systemic diversity, historically a driver of U.S. preeminence in higher education, has decreased over the past four decades (Morphew, 2009). Isomorphism in the field results from rising environmental pressures-such as for legitimacy, efficiency, comportment with industry standards, legal compliance, and accountability--amid conditions of uncertainty. Resource-based theory suggests that colleges and universities, like other entities, can distinguish themselves and diversify their competitive environment by harnessing valuable resources, including distinctive competencies. This study's search for expressions of uniqueness in higher education led to the largely unexplored arena of signature events--distinctive, popular, long-standing, annual public events held on college campuses. The literature on major public events in urban settings demonstrates that events leverage cities' unusual assets, and they coordinate knowledge, skills, and networks to gain advantage over other destinations, diversifying their competitive field in the process. This study sought to explore and describe signature events in higher education, and to discover whether such events constitute valuable resources, whether they draw upon distinctive competencies, and the extent to which internal and external conditions affect how they are established and sustained. Comparatively analyzing data collected through a population survey fielded to organizers of 83 events, and pursuing in-depth case studies of ten events, the study identified characteristics, commonalities, and differences among signature events hosted by colleges and universities. Statistical tests investigating possible differences and relationships among event characteristics and institution characteristics uncovered little evidence to suggest that certain types of signature events emerge as a function of specific institutional contexts. Within events, it was not readily predictable that certain factors, such as event promotion, could be linked to other factors, such as event attendance. Two statistically significant findings emerged: that public institutions are more likely than private institutions to host fitness-oriented events, and that private colleges and public colleges exhibited different signature event spending patterns. The study affirmed support for the idea that signature events constitute valuable, rare, inimitable, and nonsubstitutable resources (Barney, 1991). It affirmed strong support for the idea that signature events draw upon distinctive competencies, described by Eden and Ackermann (2010) as the ability to do certain things well, manage key aspects directly, involve dynamic networks of activity, and yield results that align with institutional goals. The study affirmed support for Oliver's (1997) perspective that firms or organizations will acquire and sustain valuable competitive resources when those resources align with traditions, cultural norms and values, and have the support of top decision-makers in an atmosphere of trust. The foregoing theories would suggest, though this study did not seek directly to address, the idea that signature events potentially support heterogeneity among colleges and universities and thus promote systemic diversity in the U.S. higher education system. [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:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A