Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Educational Leadership

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Leslie D. Gonzales

Committee Member

Dr. Curtis Brewer

Committee Member

Dr. Matteel Jones

Committee Member

Dr. James Satterfield


The highest degree awarded by the community college has generally been the associate in arts or the associate in science degree (Cohen & Brawer, 2008); however, an increasing number of community colleges have expanded their missions to award baccalaureate degrees (Levin, 2004; Russell, 2010; Walker, 2005). Although some community colleges have adopted the four-year degree function while maintaining their community college mission, others have become full baccalaureate degree granting colleges. In fact, this trend contributed to a 70% increase in the number of baccalaureate colleges from 1995-2006 (Longanecker, 2008). Nevertheless, little research exists on what this process looks like (Longanecker, 2008; Toma, 2012). As such, the purpose of this study was to explore Ardent's transition from a community college into a four-year comprehensive college. I was particularly interested in learning about what the transition entailed and possible implications for various stakeholders. Although for accreditation purposes some community colleges offering baccalaureates have been required to abdicate 'community' from their name and become categorized as four-year colleges (Floyd, 2006), Ardent sought such categorization and had an explicit organizational vision to become a university. In order to explore what the transition from a community college into a four-year comprehensive college looks like, I employed case study methods as they allowed for an in-depth examination and understanding of such process (Stake, 1995, 2000). More specifically, this research is an example of an intrinsic case study (Stake, 1995, 2000) at Ardent College, a former community college in the southwestern United States. As I believed this transition could be best understood from the perspective of those experiencing and enacting this transition, I sought the perspectives of faculty, staff, and administrators at the College. Additionally, I collected organizational documents, that could help me further understand what the transition entailed (Stake, 2000). Participant observations on campus and college events also contributed to my understanding of Ardent's transition. The main finding of this study was that Ardent's transition entailed an organizational cultural shift in efforts to gain legitimacy. Specifically, Ardent's cultural shift was enabled by tightening operations and formalizing operations. Furthermore, although access was pronounced as the primary reason for Ardent's transition into a four-year college, findings indicate that decisions made by individuals primarily charged with steering Ardent's transition, in fact, undercut access.



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