Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Human Resource Education

Committee Chair

Wilson, Kristin Bailey

Author's Keywords

Liberal arts curriculum; Curriculum integration


Universities and colleges--Mergers; Education, Humanistic--United States--Case studies; Community colleges--Curricula; Educational change--United States--Case studies


This dissertation is an examination of the state of the liberal arts curriculum in community colleges in three geographic regions of the United States. From a constructivist paradigm and using globalization theory as a theoretical framework, this multiple case study examined faculty work life and administrative processes related to curriculum change in merged community and technical colleges. Through an examination of research on globalization, mergers, and trends in the general education and liberal arts curriculum, a gap in the literature emerged in the studies of community college curriculums after merger. This dissertation considers whether the focus on workforce development and decrease in the transfer mission has diminished the liberal arts courses in the college curriculum. Research on liberal arts courses identified them as courses that emphasize higher order thinking and the development of intellectual skills needed to engage in a democratic society. If students are not exposed to these skills, it may have a detrimental effect on a democratic society. The first three chapters of the dissertation outline the problem, identify relevant literature, and provide the study methodology. Chapter one provides background information about the research problem and presents the argument that liberal arts curriculum may be diminishing in community colleges. Also, chapter one provides an overview of the theoretical framework which was based on the studies on globalization and community colleges by John Levin. Chapter two explores the research which provided the conceptual framework for the problem development. The research included studies on Globalization, Mergers in Higher Education, Increasing emphasis on Workforce Development, The Diminishing Liberal Arts Curriculum, and Trends in General Education. Chapter three offers a discussion about the constructivist approach to educational research and its application to the study. Chapter four includes the findings from the single-case analysis and cross-case analysis. Significant findings included a trend toward diminishing the liberal arts courses in AAS programs, especially as transfer is encouraged with these programs. Other significant findings revealed integration challenges between the general education and technical/occupational program faculty and their respective curriculums after merger. Additionally, study findings suggested that the changing demographics of today's community college students, as well as the ongoing budget constraints, create frustrations and challenges for faculty members. Leaders of community colleges and technical colleges who plan to merge must reduce hierarchical communication during times of organizational change such as a merger and emphasize the positive outcomes of the mergers while minimizing the negative. Also, college leaders must recognize and respond to faculty members' frustrations with the amount of work required to teach students who require more remediation and present classroom management challenges.