Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

William Bosher


On June 6, 2006 Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine ceremonially signed legislation creating the New College Institute in Martinsville, Virginia. Since achieving statehood in 1788, Virginia has directly created only three four-year colleges; the University of Virginia, Virginia Military Institute, and Virginia State University. With the exception of the College of William and Mary, created in 1693, all of Virginia’s other public four-year institutions began as branch campuses, state normal schools for women, or as acquisitions of independent institutions. In addition to the extraordinary occurrence of creating a new public college in the Commonwealth of Virginia, evidence preceding the enacting legislation suggested that Martinsville might not be an appropriate place for a new college. The economic conditions in Martinsville and the entire Southside region of Virginia have undergone a dramatic transition from a production and manufacturing economy to an area beset by unemployment and lack of industry. Once considered a thriving economy based on textile, furniture and tobacco related industries, Southside Virginia has suffered resulting in a number of interrelated social and economic problems. Would a new college re-vitalize this region of the Commonwealth? Legislative studies preceding the enacting legislation provided clear evidence of the social and economic problems facing Southside communities but often ambiguous and conflicting information about the role of public policy should play with regard to creating a public organization for economic development purposes. Contrary to the historical tradition of creating a new college to meet student demand, the proposed new college in Southside Virginia would have to create post secondary educational demand to meet the needs of a new public organization. Colleges and universities can transform communities through their symbolic and legitimate structure, activities, goals and purposes. In recent research, education is described as highly institutionalized; exhibiting a socially legitimate structure and both formal and informal patterns of socialization. Educational organizations are institutionalized because they are infused with value and provide a symbolic mechanism for re-socializing and transforming individuals and communities. Institutional norms, rules and cognitions enhanced and constrained policy conversations and ultimately the decision to build a new college in Martinsville. Beyond the technical and rational arguments for constructing a new public bureaucracy, the symbolic goals and purposes of education are united with the values, beliefs and aspirations of its founders. These beliefs and values do not exist in an ahistorical space but are a condition and consequence of viewing education as highly institutionalized. This study is both an exploration and explanation of the institutional themes that created the material conditions in which policy actors negotiated and compromised in consensual solution to the problems in Southside Virginia through the creation of the New College Institute.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2009