Whom Do We Entrust to Care for Our Students: Organizational Fit to Foster an Ethical Culture of Employee and Student Success


Author/Creator ORCID





Organizational Leadership

Citation of Original Publication


Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States


With the shift in focus from access to college education to completion of post-secondary degree, community colleges are facing increasing challenges to ensure students succeed after arriving on campus regardless of academic preparation, cognitive ability, or socioeconomic status. In addition, community colleges are managing unprecedented internal competing priorities and are facing growing financial pressures with funding tied to completion rates. With everyone on the college campus playing a role in fostering a culture of student success, it becomes increasingly more important for institutions to discern which faculty, staff, and administrators it attracts, selects, and retains. This qualitative study explores the individual core values prized by faculty, staff, and administrators, the overall optimal values to foster a culture of student success, and how the ethical identity of an institution and person-organization (PO) fit—value congruence and perceived fit—foster a culture of student success. The research site is a large accredited mid-Atlantic community college in the Achieving the Dream network with multiple campuses in a suburban setting. The institution serves more than 20,000 full-and part-time enrollments with over 20% Pell enrollments. Contextual factors impacting the research site include a recent academic restructuring; lawsuit over professorial wages; a physical move with centralization of administration and central services across divisions; and the institution comprises three unions in addition to non-unionized staff. All faculty, staff, and administrators representing every division of the college were invited to participate in this study, of which 298 participants completed an online anonymous cross-sectional survey, 39 participants completed individual interviews, and 24 participants completed focus group activities. The participants of this study represented every division of the college. Analysis of surveys, interviews, and focus groups revealed: a) employee success leads to student success, b) identification and operationalization of participant-identified optimal (PIO) values leads to optimal fit between individual and organization, c) the ethical identity and cultures of student and employee success reflect the values operationalized by the institution, and d) the operationalization of values reflect the ethical identity and cultures of student and employee success. Implications of these findings are critical to understand how colleges can improve selection practices, professional development efforts, and organizational effectiveness by hiring faculty, staff, and administrators with optimal fit to foster a culture of employee and student success. Further, organizations can identify and leverage optimal values to acculturate existing employees to improve fit with the organization. In addition, colleges can operationalize optimal values to target gaps in practices and address inefficiencies. Colleges can also endeavor into transformational cultural change by institutionalizing optimal values.