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College Drinking Prevention - Changing the Culture

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View From The President's Office: The Leadership Of Change

Managing The Change Process: Aligning Organizational Factors To Support Alcohol-Related Goals

On many campuses, a decision to reduce excessive drinking among students represents a major organizational change. Just as health-related theoretical frameworks underlie the individual and environmental interventions discussed in other background papers, organizational change management theory provides a useful construct for addressing implementation issues related to college drinking efforts.

Dr. Ramaley, who has led and written about major university change experiences, notes that four conditions must exist, or be set in place, to move an institution in a desired direction (Ramaley, 1995, 1996). These include a compelling reason for the change; clarity of purpose; significance of scale (i.e., efforts large and interconnected enough to produce the desired change); and a conducive campus environment.

"Given the impact of student alcohol problems, the compelling case is not difficult to make, and I don't believe a crisis has to occur before people can commit to this issue," Dr. Ramaley says. "But to be persuasive, the case must be specific to a college's own situation. Clarity of purpose is harder to approach, because we don't have all the facts about what works in reducing underage/excessive drinking, and we need more research to take steps with greater certainty. But we looked at our underlying purpose at the University of Vermont as changing attitudes and norms to create an environment characterized by civility and respect, as well as educational achievement. Regarding significance of scale, I'd say that every change creates ripples of response, and it's important to address all of them. In our case, that has meant paying attention to both the campus and community environments as well as collaborating with others facing this problem across our State and Nation."

Creating the fourth condition, a conducive environment, is the first step in the stages of intentional, large-scale change described by Michael Heifetz (Heifetz, 1993). Conceptual models of organizational change describe key factors that affect the environment and can enable or hinder the adoption of change, such as leadership mission and strategy, organizational culture and climate, management styles and practices, organization structure, job requirements, information and decision making, and recognition, reward and performance management (Burke, 1993; Carr et. al., 1996; Duck, 1993).

Business/management research shows that comprehensively addressing all relevant factors and aligning them strategically to support a change is important to success (Carr et al., 1996). This section discusses how presidents and administrators are dealing with these factors in their efforts to reduce student drinking problems.

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Last reviewed: 9/23/2005


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