Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Edward De Roche, PhD, Director; Kathleen M. Collins, PhD; Cheryl A. Getz, EdD


administration, collaborative leadership, Heritage College (Toppenish, WA), higher education, inclusion, Leadership studies, multicultural learning community, partnership leadership, qualitative, south central Washington, student-centered, team-oriented


Heritage College, a four-year, fully accredited, independent, nonprofit college located in rural, south central Washington, serves multicultural populations that have been educationally isolated. It was created against tremendous odds in 1981 by a small, diverse group of committed individuals. An initial study of Heritage College, conducted in 1991, yielded such compelling findings in the areas of leadership, mission, and community, among others, that a more rigorous, in-depth research study was called for. This dissertation is the follow-up study. The president of Heritage College states that the College sees itself as a leadership- and team-oriented institution with a distinctive focus on collaborative leadership, community, caring and commitment, driven by its mission to serve a unique population. Consequently, this qualitative case study serves two purposes: (1) It tests and confirms this hypothesis by identifying specific practices of leadership, community, caring, commitment, and mission as defined by experts in these fields; and (2 )It identifies how Heritage College is unique from the documented literature, specifically in the field of partnership leadership. Data triangulation was achieved through the use of thirty-six interviews with key stakeholders, including students, staff, faculty, administrators, and members of the Board of Directors; formal and informal observations; and the analysis of more than seventy-five College documents. Data analysis was conducted manually and by utilizing QSR NUD*IST, a qualitative research data analysis software program. Partnership is the foundation upon which the College has been established. Not surprisingly, the research findings reinforce that this is an organization where partnership is fundamental in every aspect. Within this overarching quality of partnership that permeates the College, four major themes emerged, partnership being fundamental to each one. Heritage College is: (1) an organization that manifests partnership leadership in all stakeholder groups; (2) a mission-driven organization that is student-centered; (3) a multicultural learning community of respect and inclusion; and (4) an organization where resources and relationships are critical to its ability to thrive. The final dissertation report is a rich, thick description of the importance of partnership leadership in the creation and ongoing operation of Heritage College, as well as the force of commitment and mission in building and sustaining a multicultural learning community.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access