Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Russell F. West

Committee Members

Nancy Dishner, Ronald Green, Terrence A. Tollefson


The purpose of this study was to describe the creation and development of the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) in Abingdon, Virginia as an example of a higher education consortium. Case study methodology was used to determine why and how the SVHEC was established, who was involved, and how well it served adult students and the community.

Data were collected through interviews, focus groups, observations, and document analysis. The methodology included identifying key players, designing an interview protocol, and conducting interviews with academic and political figures who had played key roles in the SVHEC’s development. Abingdon community representatives were interviewed, as were present and former college and university presidents representing partner institutions in the consortium. Data were also obtained through observations gained from multiple visits to the Center, formal and informal interviews of employees of the Center and its partners, and participation in meetings. Internal and external documents were also analyzed. The cumulative data record enabled me to reconstruct the process through which the center was created and developed.

I found the SVHEC to be a grassroots effort, born of community need, and championed by a local educational administrator and a legislator from a neighboring community. Besides providing educational opportunity to an underserved population, the Center has promoted economic development, and enhanced outsiders’ perceptions while heightening local appreciation of the community. Recognized as successful by all types of stakeholders, the consortium reportedly serves its students well; is sensitive to the needs of adult learners and businesses; boasts strong leadership and legislative support; is customer-oriented, professionally operated, and community enhancing.

Uniquely designated as a state agency, the Center illustrates an effective partnership among universities, legislators, and communities and demonstrates the productive use of state funding in promoting goals of education and economic development. This study may provide a model for communities and higher educational institutions seeking solutions to their needs. In this time of a precarious national economy, mirrored by continuously dwindling state funding for higher education, examples of creative, cost-effective educational structures are needed. The SVHEC is one such model.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.