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ERIC Number: ED551714
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 258
Abstractor: As Provided
ISBN: 978-1-2678-2147-8
Boundary Spanning in Higher Education: How Universities Can Enable Success
Skolaski, Jennifer Pauline
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison
Purpose: The purpose of this research is to better understand the identity and work of academic and extension staff who have boundary spanning responsibilities. The results will help universities, especially public land-grant universities with an outreach mission, to create stronger policies and systems to support boundary spanning staff members as employees and professionals. Participants: The study sample included 832 academic and Cooperative Extension staff (specialists, and non-tenure faculty) from three different land-grant institutions. All participants worked with external community members, and were identified and recruited by their university's representative of The Research University Civic Engagement Network (TRUCEN). These representatives sent an email of interest to possible participants who may self-identify as boundary spanners. Methods: This study used mixed methods to address the research questions. Data were collected though an online survey that included both Likert-type (agree/disagree) as well as open-ended questions; review of institutional policies, procedures, annual reports, historical documents, and other miscellaneous materials that gave additional insight into the institutional system; and a post-survey member check with an academic staff organization at one of the participating institutions. Response rates for academic staff and Cooperative Extension varied across the three institutions. MSU had the highest response rates with a total of 13% (academic staff 18%, extension staff 11%), then UG with a total of a 8% response rate (academic staff 10%, extension staff 7%), and UW had the lowest response rate with a total of 7% (academic staff 6%, extension staff having 5%). Consequently, all analyses considered both main effects and interactions. Survey items were analyzed using Qualtrics and SPSS. ANOVAs and chi-square tests were conducted to test for main effects of university (UW, UG, and MSU) and respondent's role (Cooperative Extension or academic staff) and two-way interactions (university by role). Significant effects were followed with post-hoc tests. Qualitative survey data were analyzed using Boyatzis' (1998) thematic coding process. Data from the supplemental information review were transcribed and compared, and data from the post-survey member check were transcribed and used as supplement quotations. Findings: Boundary spanning is a technique of outreach that bridges the gap between higher education and communities. The results of this study address how universities can better support boundary spanning by describing the identity of academic and extension boundary spanners, the work that staff do, the challenges they face, how staff feel they are treated, and how staff feel their work is viewed. The relationships between academic and extension staff and the three universities are examined. Two main effects were found, an extension effect and University of Georgia effect. While statistically significant, both effects need further research to better understand why each group consistently scored higher than their counterparts. Conclusions: Through the survey results and input from staff who participated in this research, five suggestions are offered to universities on how they can better support boundary spanning staff. The results of this research can serve as models for other university and extension systems on how to better support boundary spanners within their institutions. [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: Georgia; Wisconsin