Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Jay R. Dee

Second Advisor

Dwight E. Giles, Jr.

Third Advisor

Robert T. Palmer


This study examined the extent to which the reform of an undergraduate academic curriculum led to institutional change at an Historically Black University (HBU). Four research questions were addressed: 1) How did Douglass University (pseudonym) implement institutional change to address external and internal challenges? 2) How did an HBCU mission and history affect the institutional change process at Douglass University? 3) To what extent did reform of the academic curriculum serve as a fulcrum for institutional change at Douglass University? Finally, 4) to what extent were the outcomes of the change process at Douglass University transformational? The research was conducted using a single case study research design, and data gathered through semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and document analysis. Study findings indicated that several external, institutional, and unit-level factors influenced the curriculum change process at Douglass. The external factors included economic pressures, competition from other universities, and the broader mission and history of HBCUs. Two institutional factors had positive effects on the change process: a high level of commitment to the institution among administrators, and the institutional identity at Douglass. Three institutional factors had negative effects on the change process: perceptions of lack of administrative acumen, lack of institutional resources, and institutional inertia. At the unit-level, passion for the institution and faculty/staff engagement had positive effects, while lack of trust had a negative effect. The change process was characterized by an extensive program evaluation initiative that included data-based assessments of each academic program. The change process resulted in many isolated changes (deep, but not pervasive) and several institutional changes (pervasive, but not deep). Only the changes related to interdisciplinary curriculum development appeared to be transformational for the institution (both deep and pervasive). Several forces undermined the transformational potential of this initiative, including constant change in leadership, lack of strategy formation, and lack of an effective post-implementation communications plan.


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