Date Available


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Year of Publication


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Jane McEldowney Jensen, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Neal H. Hutchens, Ph.D.


This companion dissertation reports the findings of applied case study research on four community college organizational units that consistently meet or exceed standard performance measures. In addition, prior ample evidence confirms that performance extended significantly beyond what might be explained by available tangible resources alone. The case study contexts are common in higher education in general: a) an external partnership, (b) an ad hoc team, (c) a traditional, cross-divisional service unit, and (d) a grant-funded student service unit.

Emerging positive organizational theory and research show promise for revealing performance-influencing phenomena and behaviors that are not adequately represented in standard measures. Therefore, this collaborative case study research was designed to explore positive influences on the success of the four community college units.

This companion dissertation contains three manuscripts. Chapter 2, a technical report, contains the collaboratively-written synthesis of findings from the four individual case studies. Key findings across the units suggest the influence on performance of: (a) a people-first culture, (b) authentic, trusting, inclusive leadership, and (c) resource richness beyond constrained tangible resources. This collective analysis reveals that leveraging resources for capacity building can help make the difference between an organization that performs adequately and one that performs beyond expectations.

In Chapter Three this researcher examines an individual case study of a community college student support services unit. I found that this unit’s culture influences high performance by putting people first, leveraging intangible resources, and providing leaders and all unit members with autonomy and support. I also discovered that relationships, tacit knowledge, diversity, leadership qualities, and traits of unit members when leveraged in combination improved functioning and performance the most.

In Chapter Four, I suggest that the recommendations for high performance made in Chapter Three can be applied to a newly developed virtual coaching network, whose members provide student services in a virtual environment. The actions recommended to help the network meet what appear to be conflicting administrative goals are: (a) identify unit strengths, (b) connect strengths to the unit mission, (c) develop constructive relationships, and (d) identify and leverage resources.

KEYWORDS: community colleges, organizational functioning, student services, virtual teams, positive organizational scholarship