Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Julie N. Zimmerman


As urban areas have come to increasing dominate the social landscape, rurality is often defined in negative ways such as being backwards, simple, or even deviant. Urbanormativity is a theoretical approach developed to capture the normative and structural impacts and implications of privileging the urban. The result is not only the construction of urban as correct and positive and rurality as abnormal and backwards, the cultural ideology impacts the structural flow of resources which negatively impacts and results in a marginalization of rural areas.

The primary question motivating this research is how does urbanormativity shape the interactions between rural towns and private institutions of higher education located in these towns? In particular, this research examines how the rural anti-idyll and idyll concretize the urbanormative cultural ideology in a local context. Additionally, this research investigates how everyday processes of inequality are enacted adding complexity to how urbanormativity plays out in a particular setting.

While much research has examined the role of higher education in urban areas, very little research has examined private higher education in rural places. Still, rural located higher education is important for rural locales as an employer, as a gathering place, as a source of job skills training, and for economic development. Emplacing rural higher education in its respective locale is also important because as an institution, rural located higher education is one mechanism through which rural localities are integrated into larger urban-focused normative and structural systems.

Using a case study, this research examined the effects of urbanormativity on local constructions of rurality and the impacts for both the rural locale and the rural located private higher educational institution. In particular, urbanormative cultural ideology played out in concrete ways for both local residents and for faculty and staff of the local private university as they explained the anti-idyllic and idyllic aspects of the local context. These conceptualizations of rurality and their place within the local context hold concrete implications for decision making by residents, those employed by the institution, and the institution itself. Viewed within urbanormativity as an institution that integrates the locale with the larger society and system, this research found that the impact and implications of urbanormativity resulted in challenges including employee and student recruiting and retention as well as becoming a regional university rather than a local college placing both the local community and the private university between a rock and a hard place.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)