Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis & Resolution


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Ismael Muvingi

Second Advisor

Judith McKay

Third Advisor

Urszula Strawinska-Zanko


collaboration, conflict, higher education, multi-institutional, Regional Higher Education Center, systems theory


The higher education landscape is changing. Students seeking access to college are increasinglydiverse, geographically dispersed, socioeconomically challenged, and will require higher education administrators to closely examine their models to ensure they are well-suited to serve the needs of these students. Responding to these shifts will require higher education administrators to shed traditional approaches in favor of innovative, cost-effective, flexible models of education delivery. Many institutions address this challenge through a reliance on higher education consortia and collaborations. In Maryland, one approach to collaboration takes the form of multi-institutional Regional Higher Education Centers (RHEC) like the largest of them, the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). This qualitative exploratory case study was designed to explore, through the lens of Systems Theory, the nature of the conflicts that exist at USG and to gain an enhanced understanding of why they are occurring and what the resulting impact is on collaboration among the institutions. Based on the triangulation of data collected from semi-structured interviews with 17 former and current USG administrators, participant observations, and documentary evidence, five categories of conflict were identified, as were four themes to explain why conflict is occurring. Three key impacts of the conflict on collaboration emerged: 1) inability to garner meaningful commitment and engagement from partners, 2) inequitable levels of partner engagement, and 3) inability to sustain and grow collaboration. In addition, a set of recommendations is offered to assist multi-institutional collaborations to transition from a culture that results in siloed work to one that facilitates collaboration.