Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


First Advisor

Marilyn Grady

Date of this Version

Spring 3-16-2023

Document Type



Pearson, E. L. (2023) Following the "Iron Lady" and finding a University: A phenomenological study of organizational identity. [Doctoral Dissertation, University of Nebraska Lincoln].


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership in Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Erin L. Pearson


Higher education culture is steeped in institutional identity and ties to history. But what happens when that history is challenged, and an institution must change its name? While a merger was not initially intended for Kearney State College, merging into the University of Nebraska system was the only way to reflect the change and growth that emulated the type of institution it had become. By interviewing sixteen participants that lived the experience of the merge, a concise and collective history of the events that led to the creation of the University of Nebraska at Kearney was obtained and studied. Through phenomenological methodology, the important story of the institution gave way to the institution’s identity before, during and after the merge, solidifying not only who Kearney State was, but also who UNK is. Future research implicates the importance of studying the increasing commonality of higher education institutions merging, be it strategic or for survival, and opens higher education to be researched further not only into the importance of documented histories but also for studying the effect of change in identity, particularly on the human capital component.

Advisor: Marilyn Grady