Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are facing changes in the twenty-first century driven in part by a change in the societal demands on the educational system. Organizational adaptation to changing environment is discussed in the business and management literature, which now includes organizational adaptation in higher education (Brown, 2012; Cameron, 1984; Drew, 2010; Rogers, 2013; Sporn, 1999). The focus of this research is organizational adaptation in four HBCUs. Although HBCUs have long histories and just over 100 of them currently exist, the researchers have focused on four of these institutions and the factors that have enabled them to adapt to change. These changes are forcing colleges and universities to reexamine their organizational strategy to adapt to changes in the educational environment.
The purpose of this research was to examine enabling factors of four HBCUs to adapt to the changing environment. Drawing from historical and archival material, the researcher examined four HBCUs – Bluefield State College, Bowie State University, Hampton University, and Spelman College, and how each adapted to the changing environment. A multiple case study designed was selected to understand the adaptation phenomenon within and across institutions. A review of the literature on organizational adaptation and change, along with a case study analysis of four HBCUs identified the factors that enhanced their adaptive strategies and ability to adapt successfully to the changing environment. The four factors were leadership, culture, structure, and business strategy that influenced each university's ability to adapt successfully to change. Chaffee's (1984, 1985) adaptive and interpretative strategy models and Miles and Snow's (1978) adaptive cycle provided the lens to examine adaptation in these institutions. In this study, leadership, culture, structure, and business strategy were observed as factors that enhanced each school's adaptation to the changing environment.
Chaffee's (1984, 1985) adaptation models and Miles and Snow's (1978) theoretical framework were employed to evaluate adaptation in these organizations. Each of these institutions faced organizational challenges that required an adaptive response. The quality of the adaptive response enabled each organization to adapt to its changing environment, and these changes involved long-range planning for these organizations and not merely short-term gains. The adaptive responses were hinged on the presence of four factors: leadership, culture, structure, and business strategy. Leadership and culture were the most prominent factors that supported organizational change.
Harrison, E. and Thomas, M. (2021), "Adaptive Survival Strategies: A Case Study Analysis of Four Historically Black Colleges and Universities", Crosby, G.B., White, K.A., Chanay, M.A. and Hilton, A.A. (Ed.) Reimagining Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Great Debates in Higher Education), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 97-108. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-80043-664-020211010
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