Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




David W. Leslie


An exploratory case study of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC), a higher education lobbying group of business and education interests, was conducted to gain greater insight to state-level higher education interest group formation. A qualitative method was utilized and interviews with founding members of the VBHEC were carried out to understand why participants felt the need to organize such a group at that particular time as well as why members joined the group and continued their participation. The case study covered the time period from the early 1990s through the Council's incorporation in September of 1996. Findings were compared to prevailing theories of interest group formation: (a) that interest groups form in response to a disturbance in the environment (Truman, 1951); (b) that group members require the receipt of benefits for their participation (Olson, 1965); (c) that group leaders require benefits to sustain their participation (Salisbury, 1969); and (d) that interest group formation requires individuals who share a deep commitment to a particular philosophy or ideology (Moe, 1980; Sabatier, 1992).;The findings of the VBHEC case study provide support for the assertion that interest groups form when disturbances in the operating environment occur and that a group's sustainability can be attributed to members' deep commitment to a shared ideology or philosophy. The case study also provided strong evidence of the important role an interest group's leadership plays in sustaining member interest and participation. Participants indicated that the viability of the VBHEC rested primarily in the continued leadership of the group's chair while analysis of the group's formal and informal leadership provided evidence that having politically astute leadership attuned to changes in the political environment also facilitated the group's formation. The case study did not, however, provide evidence to support the assertion that an interest group's leaders required benefits in return for taking on a leadership role.



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