Jones, Diann Olszowy
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University presidents hold the strategic and symbolic power to communicate their institution’s mission internally within their institutions and externally to the larger community. However, the requirements within the position are escalating at the same time as significant presidential turnover is occurring. Of particular concern is the impact to sustaining the innovation and momentum of community engagement during this upheaval. The purpose of this study was to explore how a university presidential transition affected community engagement. Through a single case study methodology, using Schlossberg’s transition framework, four research questions guided this study: Situation: What was the status of community engagement throughout the presidential transition? Selves: How did community engagement advocates react to the president’s departure and throughout the transition? Support: How was community engagement supported throughout the presidential transition? Strategies: How was community engagement managed throughout the presidential transition? The findings indicated community engagement transitioned to a new university president with minimal disruption and sustainability because: (a) Individuals felt empowered to continue their work, had skills in relationship building, and adapted to a new president’s leadership style and structure; (b) There was a formalized infrastructure which aligned with the university’s mission and was built using the criteria required to earn the Carnegie Elective Community Engagement designation; (c) Community engagement advocates were part of the search process and in power positions; (d) An external network of community engagement scholars and professionals supported each other’s work; (e) Process over product was an embedded practice in how community engagement was managed; and (f) The academic leader of the community engagement center was a critical success factor. The analysis yielded three conclusions: (1) A balance of both internal and external actors with agency are required to sustain an institution’s community engagement agenda through a presidential transition; (2) Leadership, including presidents, regents/trustees, provosts, community engagement administrators, and scholarly faculty, is critical in the presidential transition; and (3) Schlossberg’s (1981) individual transition model is applicable to organizational transitions as well.