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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
AASCU. (n.d.). Opportunities for all: America’s state colleges and universities. https://www.aascu.org/Opps4All/Facts/
Albert, S., Ashforth, B. E., & Dutton, J. E. (2000). Organizational identity and identification: Charting new waters and building new bridges. Academy of Management Review, 25(1), 13–17.
Albert, S., & Whetten, D. (1985). Organizational identity. Research in Organizational Behavior, 7, 263–296.
Allen, W., & Jewell, J. (2002). A backward glance forward: Past, present, future perspectives on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Review of Higher Education, 25(3), 241–261.
Altbach, P.G. & Salmi, J. (Eds.). (2011). The road to academic excellence: The making of world-class research universities. The World Bank.
Amsler, S. S., & Bolsmann, C. (2012). University rankings as social exclusion. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 33(2), 283–301.
Ashforth, B. E., & Mael, F. (1989). Social identity theory and the organization. The Academy of Management Review, 14(1), 20–39. https://doi.org/10.2307/258189
Ashforth, B., Harrison, S., & Corley, K. (2008). Identification in organizations: An examination of four fundamental questions. Journal of Management, 34(3), 325-374.
Bowman, N. A., & Bastedo, M. N. (2009). Getting on the front page: Organizational reputation, status signals, and the impact of US News and World Report rankings on student decisions. Research in Higher Education, 50, 415–436.
Blanco, G. (2017). Jean Baudrillard’s radical thinking, and its potential contribution to the Sociology of Higher Education illustrated by debates about ‘world-class’ universities. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 26(4), 337–352.
Clark, B. (1987). The academic life: Small worlds, different worlds. Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press.
Conway, C., & Mutisya, P. (2018). Academic mentoring: A prerequisite for faculty at HBCUs. Journal for the Advancement of Educational Research International, 12(1), 8–14.
Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. (2nd ed.). SAGE Publications.
Daly, C. J., & Dee, J. R. (2006). Greener pastures: Faculty turnover intent in urban public universities. Journal of Higher Education, 77(5), 776–803.
Douglass, J.A. (2016). The new flagship university: Changing the paradigm from global ranking to national relevancy. Palgrave Macmillan.
Dugas, D., Stich, A. E., Harris, L. N., & Summers, K. H. (2018). I’m being pulled in too many different directions’: academic identity tensions at regional public universities in challenging economic times. Studies in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2018.1522625
Dunham, E.A. (1969). Colleges of the forgotten Americans: A profile of state colleges and regional universities. McGraw-Hill Book Company.
Dutton, J., Dukerich, J., & Harquil, C. (1994). Organizational images and member identification. Administrative Science Quarterly, 39(2), 239–263.
Eddy, P. L., & Hart, J. (2012). Faculty in the hinterlands: Cultural anticipation and cultural reality. Higher Education, 64, 751–769.
Espinosa, L.L., Kelchen, R. & Taylor, M. (2018). Minority serving institutions as engines of upward mobility. American Council on Education.
Finnegan, D. E., & Gamson, Z. F. (1996). Disciplinary adaptations to research culture in comprehensive institutions. Review of Higher Education, 19(2), 141–177.
Finnegan, D. E. (1993). Segmentation in the academic labor market: Hiring cohorts in comprehensive universities. Journal of Higher Education, 64(6), 621–656.
Gardner, S. K. (2010). Keeping up with the Joneses: Socialization and culture in doctoral education at one striving institution. The Journal of Higher Education, 81, 728–749. https://doi.org/10.1353/jhe.2010.0013
Gasman, M., Baez, B., Drezner, N. D., Sedgwick, K. V., Tudico, C., & Schmid, J. M. (2006). Historically Black colleges and universities: Recent Trends. Washington, D.C: American Association of University Professors.
Gizir, S. (2014). A qualitative case study on the organizational identity of faculty members. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 14(4), 1309–1324.
Gonzales, L. D. (2012). Responding to mission creep: Faculty members as cosmopolitan agents. Higher Education, 64, 337–353.
Gonzales, L. D., & Ayers, D. F. (2018). The convergence of institutional logics on the community college sector and the normalization of emotional labor: A new theoretical approach for considering community college faculty labor expectations. Review of Higher Education, 41(3), 455–478.
Goodwin, J. (2012). SAGE secondary data analysis London. UK: SAGE Publications.
Gormley, D K. & Kennerly, S. (2009). Influence of work role perceptions of climate on faculty organizational commitment. Journal of Professional Nursing, 26(2), 108–115.
Gouldner, A. W. (1958). Cosmopolitans and locals: Towards an analysis of latent social roles. II. Administrative Science Quarterly, 2(4), 444–480.
Harcleroad, F. & Ostar, A. (1987). Colleges and universities for change: America’s comprehensive public state colleges and universities. AASCU.
Hazelkorn, E. (2015). Global rankings and the geopolitics of higher education: Understanding the influence and impact of rankings on higher education, policy and society. Routledge.
Henderson, B. (2007). Teaching at the people’s university: An introduction to the state comprehensive university. Anker Publishing Company, Inc.
Henderson, B. (2009). Mission creep and teaching at the master’s university. College Teaching, 57(4), 185–187.
Labrianidis, L. (2010). The Greek university stranded in the policy of establishing regional universities. European Planning Studies, 18(12), 2009–2026.
Labaree, David F. (2008). An uneasy relationship: The history of teacher education in the university. In Cochran-Smith, Marilyn, Feiman Nemser, Sharon, & McIntyre, D. John (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education: Enduring issues in changing contexts, 3rd ed. (pp. 290–306). Association of Teacher Educators.
Lawrence, J., Ott, M., & Bell, A. (2010). Faculty organizational commitment and citizenship. Research in Higher Education, 53, 325–352.
Mael, F., & Ashforth, B. E. (1992). Alumni and their alma mater: A partial test of the reformulated model of organizational identification. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 13, 103–123.
Marginson, S. (2016a). Global stratification in higher education. In S. Slaughter & B. J. Taylor. (Eds.), Higher education, stratification, and workforce development: Competitive advantage in Europe, the US, and Canada (1st ed.), Higher Education Dynamics, Vol. 45. (pp. 13–34). Cham: Springer International Publishing.
Marginson, S. (2016b). The dream is over: The crisis of Clark Kerr’s California idea of higher education. University of California Press.
McClure, K. (2018). Institutions of opportunity: Using presidents’ narratives to re-tell the story of public regional universities. Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education, 3, 117–134.
Meyer, J. P., & Allen, N. J. (1991). A three-component conceptualization of organizational commitment. Human Resource Management Review, 1(1), 61–89.
Minor, J. T. (2004). Decision making in historically Black colleges and universities: Defining the governance context. Journal of Negro Education, 73(1), 40–52.
National Center for Education Statistics, U.S.A. Department of Education. (2011). Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, HBCU Faculty and Salary component.
National Education Association. (2018). National Higher education advocate: The special salary issue 2018. https://www.nea.org/assets/docs/NEA_Salary18_final.pdf
Ndiffer, J., & Bouman, J. P. (2004). ‘The university of the poor’: The University of Michigan’s transition from admitting impoverished students to studying poverty, 1870–1910. American Educational Research Journal, 41(1), 35–67.
O’Meara, K. (2007). Striving for what? Exploring the pursuit of prestige. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, 22, 121–179.
O’Meara, K. (2014). Half-way out: How requiring outside offers to raise salaries influences faculty retention and organizational commitment. Research in Higher Education, 56, 279–298.
Orphan, C. M. (2018). Public purpose under pressure: Examining the effects of neoliberal policy on regional comprehensive universities. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 22(2), 59–102.
Orphan, C. M., & McClure, K. R. (2019). An anchor for the region: Examining a regional comprehensive university’s efforts to serve its rural, Appalachian community. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 35(9), 1–19.
Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd Ed.). SAGE.
Saldaña, J. (2013). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. (2nd ed.).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Sauder, M., & Espeland, W. N. (2009).
Scott, R. W. (2015). Higher education in America: Multiple field perspectives. In M. W. Kirst and M. Stevens (Eds.), Remaking college: The changing ecology of higher education (pp. 19–38). Stanford University Press.
Scott, C., Corman, S. & Cheney, G. (1998). Development of a structurational model of identification in the organization. Communication Theory, 8(3), 298–336.
Stromquist, N. (2007). Internationalization as a response to globalization: Radical shifts in university environment. Higher Education, 53, 81–105.
Taylor, B. J. (2016). The field of dynamics of stratification among U.S. Research Universities: The expansion of federal support for academic research, 2000–2008. In S. Slaughter & B. J. Taylor. (Eds.), Higher education, stratification, and workforce development: Competitive advantage in Europe, the US, and Canada (1st ed.), Higher education dynamics, Vol. 45. (pp. 59–79). Cham: Springer International Publishing.
Taylor, B. J., & Cantwell, B. (2015). Global competition, U.S. research universities, and international doctoral education: Growth and consolidation of an organizational field. Research in Higher Education, 56, 411–441.
Taylor, B. J. & Cantwell, B. (2019). Unequal higher education: Wealth, status, and student opportunity. Rutgers University Press.
Thelin, J. (2011). A history of American higher education, Second Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Tsui, P. Y., & Ngo, H. Y. (2015). A study of organizational identification of faculty members in Hong Kong business schools. Journal of Education for Business, 90(8), 427–434.
U.S.A. Department of Education. (2009). National Study of Postsecondary Faculty. https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/nsopf/components.asp
van Dick, R. (2001). Identification in organizational contexts: Linking theory and research from social and organizational psychology. International Journal of Management Reviews, 3(4), 265–283.
Walker, J. (2016). Stratification and vocationalism in Canadian higher education. In S. Slaughter & B. J. Taylor. (Eds.), Higher education, stratification, and workforce development: Competitive advantage in Europe, the US, and Canada (1st ed.), Higher Education Dynamics, Vol. 45. (pp. 251–269). Cham: Springer International Publishing.
Wheatle, K. I. E. (2019). Neither just nor equitable: Race in the congressional debate of the Second Morrill Land Act of 1890. American Educational History Journal, 46(2), 1–20.
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.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
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
- Global Status Hierarchies
- Regional Universities
- Faculty Life
- Organizational Identification
- Organizational Commitment