Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

James Barott, PhD

Committee Member

David Anderson, PhD

Committee Member

LaVerne Higgins, PhD


Background: Eastern Michigan University (EMU) is a regional comprehensive university established as a teacher training school in 1849. This case study analyzed the politics of change and persistence as the organization evolved from a normal schools that trained teachers to a regional comprehensive university.

Purpose: This study was pursued to inform higher education leadership; satisfy the personal interests of the researcher and to contribute knowledge to comprehensive university organizational studies.

Research Design: An interpretive longitudal historical case study design was pursed for this research. This case study reviewed the political cultural environment that occurred prior to the organization’s formation and through its transition to a multipurpose university. The study describes the cultural environment, the Michigan Higher Education System and the organization as they evolved over time.

Data Collection and Analysis: data were collected from non-obtrusive sources including: EMU archives, historical publications, Ypsilanti Historical Society, newspapers, catalogues, and brochures. As data was collected, categories were identified based on the presence of critical historical events. The categories included; demographics, economics, conflict and governance. Each of the categories was examined at national, state and local environmental levels. The data was organized into socially constructed eras that included three historical eras that occurred prior to the formation of the organization and six organizational eras that included the years 1850 – 1980.

Findings: The study explains that the organization had three organizing biases that have persisted over time and that each bias becomes dominant when their respective referential cultural level of the environment is dominant. The governance of the organization changed in accordance with the dominant environmental level. The three organizing biases are; disciplines, semi-professional (methods) and local interests.

Implications: The study illustrates the importance of understanding the competing values of an educational organization and how those values relate to a changing cultural environment. The study informs decision making and strategic approaches to higher education leadership. The study contributes to the literature regarding regional comprehensive universities and provides a general overview of the evolution of Michigan’s higher education system in relation to governance and cultural events.


Additional committee member: Jaclynn Tracy, PhD