Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/03/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Morphew, Christopher C.

Second Advisor

Barnhardt, Cassie L.

First Committee Member

Menninga, Elizabeth J.

Second Committee Member

Ogren, Christine A.

Third Committee Member

Sauder, Michael


The following dissertation comprises three studies that aim to better understand organizational identity in the field of U.S. higher education. Research in this area has focused largely on attributes that emphasize college and university distinctiveness, though a good deal of studies in higher education have found that many postsecondary institutions are very alike in their structure and behavior. On the other hand, qualitative research demonstrates that organizational identity helps to explain differences between colleges and universities. The studies herein conceptualize organizational identity as a series of claims about self that balance both sameness and distinctiveness. These studies analyze how organizational identity establishes an institution’s group membership, while distinguishing the institution from colleges and universities in other groups.

Manuscripts analyze how organizational identity is associated with action using institutions’ self-selected comparison groups. The first study examines how institutions’ identity claims and aspirational identity claims, measured through their comparison groups, are associated with future action. The second study applies social network analysis techniques to identity communities of colleges and universities that are routinely nominated together. With specific focus on public comprehensive institutions (CIs), this analysis finds salient institutional groups that draw on a common set of organizing principles. CIs, for example, tend to enroll diverse student bodies and maintain low tuition prices when compared with other types of postsecondary institutions. The final study investigates how these common organizing principles influence organizational action in response to their environments. Findings suggest that under the same conditions, CIs enroll more students from low-income backgrounds as a share of their undergraduate bodies when compared with public research universities.


Organizational behavior, Organizational identity, Public colleges and universities, Social network analysis


xi, 140 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 113-131).


Copyright © 2018 Graham Nicholas Stuart Miller

Available for download on Friday, July 03, 2020