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Challenging Legitimacy Gaps

Title: Challenging Legitimacy Gaps: Using Organizational Culture to Defend the Value of Outdoor Recreation Programming in Higher Education.
Name(s): Gerbers, Kellie Elizabeth, author
Schwartz, Robert A., professor directing dissertation
James, Jeffrey D. (Jeffrey Dalton), university representative
Guthrie, Kathy L., committee member
Cox, Bradley E., committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Education, degree granting college
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Doctoral Thesis
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2017
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (201 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: As college costs continue to rise, critics question why institutions are investing funds in “unimaginable college experiences” that include climbing walls, leisure pools, and state-of-the-art wellness centers (Martin, 2012; Yu & Effron, 2014; McNutt, 2014). The recent discontinuation of several dozen college outdoor recreation degrees and outdoor orientation programs suggests that the value of outdoor recreation has diminished on the modern college campus. The public challenge to such organizations occurs because of “legitimacy gaps” (Sethi, 2005, as cited in Brummette, 2015). Organizational legitimacy hinges on public acceptance of an organization’s actions within a socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions (Suchman, 1995). The same components that create the basis for organizational legitimacy also comprise the foundations for organizational culture. To survive in the modern system, college outdoor recreation programs must be able to articulate how their mission, behaviors, and decisions add value to their campus community and to institutional goals. This study explored how successful college outdoor recreation programs leverage the outcomes of effective organizational culture-building to maintain organizational legitimacy using data from three nationally-recognized college outdoor programs. The primary research questions were: 1) how does a college outdoor recreation program create a “cultural fit” within the mission and strategic plan of its institution, and 2) how does the program articulate goal congruence with institutional stakeholders? The researcher conducted interviews with 18 participants and conducted a document analysis to explore how programs shared their value with stakeholders. Findings suggest that successful programs 1) garner support when their organizational culture reinforces the institution’s organizational culture, 2) establish value by being the sole provider of specific experiences in support of the institution’s strategic priorities 3) can best maintain and extend legitimacy by cultivating a web of strategic, collaborative partnerships.
Identifier: FSU_FALL2017_Gerbers_fsu_0071E_13991 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Fall Semester 2017.
Date of Defense: August 8, 2017.
Keywords: college, higher education, legitimacy, organizational culture, outdoor recreation, value
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Robert A. Schwartz, Professor Directing Dissertation; Jeffrey James, University Representative; Kathy L. Guthrie, Committee Member; Bradley Cox, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Education, Higher
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

Choose the citation style.
Gerbers, K. E. (2017). Challenging Legitimacy Gaps: Using Organizational Culture to Defend the Value of Outdoor Recreation Programming in Higher Education. Retrieved from