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Higher education institutions throughout the world are seeking strategies to manage the perceived demand for innovation while preserving aspects of existing institutional cultures. Even though innovation affects institutional culture, and institutional culture impacts the diffusion of an innovation, relatively few studies have focused on their relationship in higher education. This ethnographic study of a financial aid office was designed to offer a deeper understanding of (a) the issues faced by financial aid staff and administrators who experience external pressures to innovate and (b) how existing aspects of their organizational culture facilitate innovation and staff responses to stakeholder needs. Four findings detail (a) the impact of external communication, (b) institutional barriers to implementation, (c) how internal communication facilitates innovation, and (d) the importance of a cohesive institutional culture and distributed leadership. A discussion of the research topics that emerged from the analysis of the findings suggest that (a) external communication practices need improvement, (b) organizational stability is desired over disruption, (c) productive communication facilitates innovation, and (d) shared cultural values and distributed leadership can support innovation. Study findings further indicate that disruptive solutions could escalate, rather than solve, the problems of the present. Therefore, an awareness of cultural nuances within departments and programs could assist in adapting innovation to fit different types of higher education institutions. An intentional focus on building bridges – between policymakers, federal administrators, and institutional agents - to better utilize current human resources is also vital to solve higher education’s current crises, including within the field of financial aid.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
26 Jan 2023
1.06 MB



  • Subject
    • Education

  • Committee member
    • Katherine Rose Adams

    • Michelle Brown

  • Thesis grantor
    • University of North Georgia

  • Advisor
    • Michael Lanford

  • Department
    • Social Foundations Leadership Education

  • Date submitted

    26 January 2023

  • Qualification name

    Ed.D - Higher Education Leadership & Practice

  • Qualification level
    • Doctoral

  • Keywords