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Keeping the Faith: The Organizational Saga of Anderson University

Mark Hughes, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This case study tells the story of Anderson University from 1995 to 2015. During this period, Anderson transitioned from a 2-year college to a 4-year university. The institution made this transition to remain viable and went through a period of decline because of the high costs associated with becoming a senior institution. After a leadership change, a period of stabilization occurred which set the stage for an evolutionary leader who determined the institution was ready for change. As an experienced strategic planner, this evolutionary leader engaged the faculty in the process of strategic planning which achieved their buy-in to develop the first 10-year strategic plan in the institution’s history. This process incorporated the systematic approach of the hedgehog concept, resulting in an expansion of the institution to provide the necessary resources to enable the accomplishment of virtually all of the strategic initiatives related to the respective pillars: (a) great academics, (b) great faith, (c) great hospitality, and (d) great purpose, as identified in the strategic plan. The saga of Anderson was not so much the realization of the plan, rather it was the process of going through the planning process, identifying aspirations for the institution, reaching consensus on the pillars, and then developing an economic engine that provided the necessary resources. The intentionality of the planning process allowed for the creation of the economic engine that funded the initiatives, as indicated by the elements of the strategic plan that were accomplished. Specifically, this study is significant to individuals who are interested in institutions that were founded by faith-based organizations and that strive to maintain a faith-based identify. In addition, the study is significant to researchers interested in colleges and universities as organizations as it uses organizational saga as a framework to study higher education institutions. During the time period for this study, a number of faith-based institutions struggled or even closed, while Anderson University successfully expanded degree opportunities, experienced substantial enrollment and endowment growth, and earned recognition at regional and national levels.

Subject Area

Higher education|Management|Organization Theory|Educational administration|Spirituality|Educational leadership|Higher Education Administration|Education Policy|Religious education

Recommended Citation

Hughes, Mark, "Keeping the Faith: The Organizational Saga of Anderson University" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28095732.