Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




John R. Thelin


The purpose of this study was to examine theories of organizational culture typically applied to the university level of organization and their applicability to the academic department. Chaffee and Tierney's (1988) theory of organizational culture, dimensions of culture, and leadership strategies became the basis for a qualitative case study of a Department of Biological Sciences in a metropolitan university.;Interviews of current faculty members, current and former deans, and other administrators were conducted. Observations were made of faculty meetings and retreats and of departmental governance committee meetings. Extensive review of documents and correspondence covering more that twenty years provided additional data.;Interview and observation transcripts and documents were analyzed in terms of Chaffee and Tierney's (1988) concepts of the structural, environmental, and values dimensions of the department. Linear, adaptive, and interpretive strategies of faculty members and the department chair were identified.;The department was found to have what Clark (1972) refers to as strong organizational saga, or a sense of unique accomplishment which serves to maintain and perpetuate the integrity of the culture. Central to the value system of the Department of Biological Sciences is the shared sense that the department is unique in the degree to which faculty members work together cooperatively for the good of the department. These strong values were rooted in an earlier era when the department was experiencing growth and development of its research programs under adverse circumstances.;The primary usefulness of the results of this study go far beyond the particular findings for this individual academic department. Most important is the demonstration of the value of using this method of organizational analysis to understand the role of culture in shaping and perpetuating the organization. Administrators, department chairs, and faculty members can enhance their understanding of the departmental organization by applying concepts of organizational culture.;Further study and analysis are needed to evaluate disciplinary and institutional similarities and differences in departmental culture and to expand the existing theory to accommodate the variety of academic departments in colleges and universities.



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