Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Educational Leadership

Committee Chair/Advisor

Marion, Russ

Committee Member

Keels Williams , Frankie

Committee Member

Satterfield , James

Committee Member

Stevenson , Steve


In higher education, we face a decade in which institutional integrity and legitimacy is under fire. In the words of Charles Dickens, this is certainly 'the worst of times' both economically and ethically for our nation, as well as for our colleges and universities. While members of higher education call for student academic ethics reform, ethical infractions by institutional leaders and faculty permeate professional literature and news--student loan scandals, charges of plagiarism, and falsified research, are but a few. This study begins with the premise that perhaps our efforts toward reform should focus on a better holistic understanding of system dynamics. The research question driving this study is, 'How does the interaction of agent work-related ethical beliefs and knowledge, perceived pressures, and institutional agents or entities influence the evolution of institutional ethics logic over time?' Grounded theory methods provided the framework for this study; this research used a complexity leadership and network lens in which to examine a university's ethics logic, as defined by participants. Complexity leadership proposes operating within a framework of mechanism-based theorizing (Uhl-Bien & Marion, in press). The Organizational Risk Analyzer (ORA) assisted coding and analysis of data, and DyNet, a modeling platform, assisted in manipulating data for an understanding of interrelated complexity mechanisms embedded in university ethics logic. Findings incorporate a faculty ethics logic model, as well as a model of dynamical processes of university ethics logic evolution. The evolution model recognizes that:
* The leadership process shifts by leader function, context, or structure.
* The process underlying network robustness reflects holistic shifts in relationships with the addition or removal of nodes and links, and represents different or new patterns of behavior
* The process of agentic correlation shifts as nodal presence or relationships change
* The process of information diffusion shifts as network context, structure, or content changes
Theoretical, methodological, higher education implications conclude the study.



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