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The integrity of a university is vitally important for educating and forming the next generation of American leaders and preserving public confidence in higher education. Unfortunately, we continue to see higher education scandals arise and leaders behaving unethically (Schwartz, 2019). This study examined, through structured interviews, how high-ranking university senior leaders consider integrity, including valuing, defining, promoting, demonstrating, and measuring integrity at their institutions. These senior leaders were associated with six higher education institutions (HEIs) in the University System of Georgia (USG), which at the time of the study formally identified integrity as a component of their institutional values. An exploratory, qualitative, case study methodology was employed. Schein’s (1992) Organizational Culture Theory (OCT) provided a foundational theoretical framework for this research, where I expanded upon that model to include additional emphasis on the societal context within which HEIs operate and measurable aspects of demonstrating institutional integrity. Additionally, Cameron and Quinn’s (2011) Competing Values Framework (CVF) provided structure to gathering and analyzing themes identified from the interview results. Institutional integrity was consistently seen as very important, and use of the term was frequently cited at and across the institutions. However, institutional integrity is a complex concept that was not well defined in practice. Definitions of integrity varied greatly and were often not as clear or definitive as they needed to be. A rich array of strategies to promote and operationalize HEI integrity were identified by interviewees. Although this study sought to answer how higher education institutions could measure integrity in their operations, it did not identify concrete findings around measuring integrity. Instead, the results suggested the need for further research and for more in-depth and proactive review of how integrity is defined, practiced, and measured at an institution. How SACSCOC accreditation requirements as a notable societal context may be contributing to these preliminary findings was discussed. A Guide to Conducting an Intentional Integrity Review was developed to aid senior higher education leaders in conducting integrity assessments at their universities.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
26 Jan 2023
65.8 kB
26 Jan 2023
2.63 MB



  • Subject
    • Education

  • Committee member
    • Edward Mienie

    • Edwin Rugg

    • Kelly McFaden

  • Thesis grantor
    • University of North Georgia

  • Advisor
    • Sheri Hardee

  • Date submitted

    26 January 2023

  • Qualification level
    • Doctoral

  • Keywords