Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Jianping Shen

Third Advisor

Dr. Eileen Willits


Strategic planning, accreditation, strategic schools, community college planning, planning, leadership perspectives


Community college leaders face unprecedented change, and some have begun reexamining their institutional strategic planning processes. Yet, studies in higher education strategic planning spend little time examining how community colleges formulate their strategic plans. This mixed-method qualitative study used an expert sampling method to identify three AQIP-accredited community colleges in one Midwestern state that were viewed as leaders in strategic planning. Using their AQIP Systems Portfolios and interviews with their senior leadership, this study examined these colleges’ strategic planning perspectives (i.e., the “point of view” that an organization has chosen to use as a basis for formulating their strategic plan) and processes (i.e., the series of actions, changes, or functions to achieve a desired result). This study also examined the extent to which these institutional leaders perceived that their strategic planning process added “value” to their institution.

To examine strategic planning perspectives and processes at these institutions two different theoretical frameworks (i.e., Goodman and Willekens (2001) and Mintzberg et al.'s (1998) 10 strategic perspectives) were used. Goodman and Willekens’ research was updated to reflect the AQIP accreditation pathway, and a crosswalk was created to determine which, if any, of Mintzberg et al.'s 10 strategic perspectives were present at these community colleges.

Key findings revealed both familiar and distinctive elements of strategic planning processes across the institutions under investigation. Instead of the three phases of strategic planning suggested in the literature, these institutions exhibited five phases, adding phases to advance their institutions from strategic planning to strategic thinking.

All participating institutions relied on Mintzberg et al.'s (1998) configuration perspective rather than the positioning perspective indicated as more common in the literature. The institutional leaders interviewed all saw value in planning strategically, and noted it allowed their organizations to align priorities, perceptions, perspectives, processes, and personnel.

Overall, this study revealed no specific recipe for strategic planning within these community colleges, but that successful strategic planning is contextual. It is a function of practices and models customized to fit a college’s unique setting (i.e., organization, leaders, and members).

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access