Bridging the divide: Collaborative practice between faculty and student services staff

Thesis type
(Thesis) Ed.D.
Date created
Author: Gibson, Jill
As post-secondary student demographics have changed in Canada over the decades, students come to universities with different expectations, and the more recent trend is that students increasingly expect the university to fit in with their lives rather than them fitting into the university culture (Fisher, 2011). This trend requires that institutions consider how to enrich diverse student experiences both within and outside the classroom. Research has shown that collaboration between faculty and student services is essential for the development of a quality student experience (Kezar, 2005). First-year collaborations are designed to support the incoming student and provide a springboard/safety net, yet, they exist, more often than not, on the periphery of the academic experience (Barefoot & Gardner, 2003) and continue to be secondary add-ons. The purpose of this research was to analyze cross-divisional collaboration between faculty and staff that aspires to build broad-based partnerships and integrative educational experiences for students. A multiple site case study design across three post-secondary institutions in British Columbia utilized interviews and focus groups with 10 administrators, 13 faculty, and 13 staff. The theoretical frameworks informing this study and its analyses were organizational culture (Schein, 2004; Tierney, 1988) and critical theory (Foucault, 1982; Horkheimer,1982). The sites provided unique and individualized perspectives, but overwhelmingly spoke to cultural gaps—the lack of coordinated efforts and systemic issues that support separate functions. These cultural limitations have created a lack of knowledge and connection between faculty and staff that have led to hesitancy in attempted collaborative partnerships - although these layers of disconnection were minimized when participants had ongoing and prior relationship. Oshrey (1995) suggested: "Wherever there is differentiation—the elaboration of our differences—special attention needs to be given to dedifferentiation: developing and maintaining our commonality" (p. 8). Future studies might examine a) the impact of organizational structures, in particular, the lack of student service professionals on governance committees, task forces, and committees; b) communication strategies that enable knowledge sharing and provide access to institutional knowledge; c) institutional leadership; and d) how cultural change happens.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Pidgeon, Michelle
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