Life at the “people’s universities”: organizational identification and commitment among regional comprehensive university faculty members in the USA

Abstract

This study examined faculty identification and commitment at regional universities, institutions marginalized by global status hierarchies that position internationally known research universities at the top while assigning low status to regional universities. Analysis was focused on the USA because of the country’s global influence. The study used interpretive qualitative and secondary data analysis methods to explore faculty life at three regional comprehensive universities and one regionally focused Historically Black University. Of the 18 faculty participants, 16 identified with their institutions, seeing themselves in their students and perceiving alignment between their personal values and their institution’s mission. Two faculty members did not experience identification and desired higher status for their institutions. All faculty members—regardless of identification style—demonstrated commitment to advancing their institution’s mission. Participants who experienced identification demonstrated affective and normative commitment, expressing moral obligation to their institution’s mission and love for their students and institution. The participants who did not experience identification demonstrated continuance commitment, remaining at their institutions to avoid the costs associated with leaving. Findings are of international import because they examine faculty life at regional universities emplaced within global status hierarchies that valorize research universities and their faculties while marginalizing regional universities and their faculties.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded through the Advancing Current Critical Issues in Community Engagement Research Grant awarded by the New England Resource Center for Higher Education. The authors are grateful to Jeni Hart and the peer reviewers for their thoughtful feedback which greatly improved this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Cecilia M. Orphan.

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Orphan, C.M., Broom, S. Life at the “people’s universities”: organizational identification and commitment among regional comprehensive university faculty members in the USA. High Educ (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-020-00629-9

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Keywords

  • Global Status Hierarchies
  • Regional Universities
  • Faculty Life
  • Organizational Identification
  • Organizational Commitment