Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Christopher B. Newman, PhD, Chairperson; Lea A. Hubbard, PhD; Gavin W. Henning, PhD


student affairs culture of assessment, organizational change, culture of assessment


Student affairs professionals have long been strong contributors to college student learning and development and supporters of the perspective that holistic postsecondary learning is critical for not only the individual but society as well. With more attention focused on the value of this learning, student affairs has taken steps to foster and establish cultures of assessment by creating positions for individuals to coordinate assessment efforts across the division – a student affairs assessment leader. Most of the literature focusing on student affairs is informed by valuable practitioner experience and can be strengthened by empirical study. This explanatory single case study explores how a student affairs assessment culture at a four-year public institution has been sustained for over two decades. By examining the structural, cultural, and agentive factors, as well as their interaction and by applying organizational change theories to the maturing student affairs assessment literature, this study provides a more complex analysis of this important phenomenon of fostering and sustaining a culture of assessment in student affairs. This case study utilizes process tracing to understand the change process and gathers multiple sources of evidence through interviews, observation, and document analysis to explore causal relationships among the factors influencing the change process.

This study’s findings suggest that specific structural, cultural, and agentive factors, their interaction, as well as recognition and external influences were involved in fostering and sustaining a culture of assessment in the student affairs division under study. This research builds on the theoretical work of Datnow, Hubbard, and Mehan (2002) by extending the usefulness of their Culture, Structure, and Agency as a Mediational System model to the higher education setting, which embodies unique organizational features. These distinctive features may account for the modifications suggested in this study for applicability in the higher education setting.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies