A Case Study Using Systems Theory for Understanding the Institutionalization Process of Engineering Certificate Programs in a Public Texas University

Michele Carolynn Williams, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

A case study involving practices supporting the institutionalization process of graduate engineering certificate programs in a Texas public university, and the factors that influence their institutionalization was viewed through a systems theory lens. Although certificate programs have increased in popularity, research on the topic has to date been limited. Engineering certificate programs have served as a convenient mid-career educational niche model for closing gaps between technological knowledge growth and professional practice know how. The data was collected in eighteen semi-structured interviews, along with document reviews and observations. Organized in three themes, the data analyses yielded a list of practices and impact factors. The themes were: certificate rationale; program buy-in and advocacy; and capacity building. The findings showed polarized views regarding the academic value of certificates, due to their purpose being incongruent with research merit. Faculty commitment at all levels of the organization was crucial to the continuity and sustainability of certificate programs. Importantly, successful initiation and implementation occurred when a single faculty program advocate championed certificate creation and rallied the support needed for proposal approval, along with new course preparation and instruction. Institutional recommendations for policy and practice include ensuring clearly established administrative leadership, and encouraging programs to offer both face-to-face and online formats, as these were most successful. Future research engaging stakeholders, including certificate program alumni, is suggested.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Educational leadership|Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Williams, Michele Carolynn, "A Case Study Using Systems Theory for Understanding the Institutionalization Process of Engineering Certificate Programs in a Public Texas University" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI13421859.
https://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI13421859

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