Support from Chief Executives to Sponsored Programs Administration at Baccalaureate Universities in the United States

Article excerpt

Introduction

The goals of the institution are best realized when all its members work towards a common purpose that they construe together. The process of sense-making that leads to the development of the common purpose is described by constructivist theory. Constructivist theory suggests that socially construed reality emerges from relationships that are situated in leadership, which is described as a shared reciprocal process as opposed to a role assumed by a person or persons. (Lambert et al., 2002). When so enabled by chief executives of the university, sponsored programs administrators (SPAs, or research administrators) can and should be the participants in the shared process of leadership.

SPAs at baccalaureate universities need adequate support from chief executives to contribute to the leadership at their organizations. Literature discusses several reasons why SPAs need chief executives' support. Some of the reasons include power imbalances that negatively influence the professional behavior of research administrators at universities. (Atkinson & Gilleland, 2007). Additionally, sponsored programs professionals at baccalaureate institutions regularly face challenges and ambiguities stemming from the political, legal, and business context in which they operate. (Lowry & Hansen, 2001).

Support from chief university executives does not necessarily require more budgetary resources, staffing, or expensive technology. Instead, or rather in addition, it requires certain actions and behavior on the part of the chief executives. For example, supportive behavior involves communicating to the wider university community the endorsement of SPAs functions and policies, delegating adequate authority to SPAs, and mandating the use of internal processes for all sponsored activities. This study (Hamilton, 2010) focused on the types of support given by the chief executives that do not require financial outlays and that are available to SPA at baccalaureate universities. The purpose of the study was to compare the relationship between the support provided for sponsored programs and the support provided to sponsored programs administration (SPA) at baccalaureate universities in the United States as defined by Basic Carnegie classification. (The Carnegie Foundation, 2005).

Research Questions and Hypotheses

The study sought evidence connecting better support to SPAs with relevant behaviors of chief university executives and with the chief executives' overall support for sponsored programs. The nonfinancial support from chief university executives was compared at public and private universities with different levels of sponsored revenue and different sizes of student enrollment. The following research questions guided this study.

Research Question 1: At baccalaureate universities, what is the relationship between the level of support provided by chief executives for sponsored programs, and the level of support provided by chief executives to SPA?

The hypothesis was tested that there is a higher level of support to SPA at universities in which chief executives demonstrate higher level of support for sponsored programs.

Research Questions 2-4: Is there a difference in the level of support provided for sponsored programs and the level of support provided to SPA between (a) public and private baccalaureate universities; (b) baccalaureate universities with different sizes of student enrollment; and (c) baccalaureate universities with different levels of sponsored revenue?

The hypotheses were tested that: (a) there is a significant difference between public and private universities in the levels of support for sponsored programs and to SPA; (b) there is a significant difference in the levels of support for sponsored programs and to SPA between baccalaureate universities with different size of student enrollment; (c) support for sponsored programs and to SPA is greater at the universities with higher levels of sponsored revenue. …