University Identification: A Conceptual Framework

By Bass, Jordan R.; Gordon, Brian S. et al. | Journal of Contemporary Athletics, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

University Identification: A Conceptual Framework


Bass, Jordan R., Gordon, Brian S., Kim, Yu Kyoum, Journal of Contemporary Athletics


INTRODUCTION

Organizational identification (OID) has long been acknowledged as an important construct in the field of organizational behavior. Multiple models of OID have shown its impact on individual satisfaction with the organization and the effectiveness of the organization (Mael and Tetrick, 1992; Mael and Ashforth, 1995; Lee, 1971). While past OID researchers have proposed models specifically designed for numerous different work place settings, a model specifically measuring OID in alumni of a university or college has not been developed.

University settings have previously been used to test general OID models (Mael and Ashforth, 1992) but a framework to specifically understand university identification (UID) by students with their alma mater has not been established. However, researchers still often state that Mael and Ashforth (1992) developed a university-specific identification model (Bhattacharya, Rao, and Glynn, 1995). While the university was the setting, Mael and Ashforth (1992) only studied alumni of a college that was an all-boys institution with no athletic department. Additionally, Mael and Ashforth (1992) freely admitted they were testing an overall model of OID (not a university specific model) they had proposed in a previous article (Ashforth and Mael, 1989). They stated, "...while the present sample is unique, the model of OID that is evaluated and most of the measures that are utilized remain generic" (Mael and Ashforth, 1992, p. 104). However, Mael and Ashforth (1992) did an excellent job of explaining the importance of identification with a university.

For their part, alumni provide various types of support: financial gifts, recruitment, career advice or job placement for graduates, participation in alumni events, and volunteer support for funds solicitation and organizational events (Ransdell, 1986). It has been said that alumni are the financial backbone of educational organizations (Bakal, 1979) and that "few constituents are more important to an institution than its alumni" (Ransdell, 1986, p. 378). (p. 106)

Additionally, the permanence of UID makes it unique from identification with other organizational settings. Hopkins (2011) stated, "college typically lasts just four years, but a student's ties to his or her alma mater endure much longer. Because alumni status lasts forever, applicants should take a moment to consider the level of satisfaction among graduates when selecting a school." Additionally, Hall and Schneider (1972) found differences in the antecedents for OID between occupations considered more permanent (e.g., forest ranger) and those temporary in nature (e.g., restaurant employee). Mael and Ashforth (1992) also stated that little was known about the factors that influence UID.

The attachment of alumni to their alma maters is far from universal (Blakely, 1974). The estimated percentage of alumni who provide financial support ranges from 14 percent (Bakal, 1979) to fewer than 25 percent (Reichley, 1977). Further, various surveys suggest that while alumni like their alma maters, most remain apathetic and uninvolved (Reichley, 1977; Spaeth and Greeley, 1970). Yet, surprisingly little is known about the factors which affect alumni attachment and involvement (cf. Tompkins, 1986). As Frey (1981) state(d): "...universities probably know little about their alumni. They presume opinions, beliefs, and preferences, yet they almost never conduct scientific research into the matter... A review of education and social science journals reveals no studies of alumni opinions" (p. 46). (p. 106)

Similarly, Riketta (2005) conducted a meta-analysis of OID that suggested the antecedents differ by setting. The author discovered that OID is significantly correlated with a variety of organizational attitudes and behaviors and OID is conceptually and empirically different from organizational commitment. Additionally, Riketta (2005) argued that researchers should continue to search for additional antecedents and outcomes of OID while sticking to established scales when measuring levels of OID. …

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