ORGANIZATIONAL IDENTITY IN AN INSTITUTION OF HIGHER
EDUCATION AS EXAMINED THROUGH METAPHOR
B.A., University of Colorado 1976
M.A., Boston College, 1978
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Peter Casimir Bemski
has been approved
Bemski, Peter Casimir (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and
Organizational Identity in an Institution of Higher
Education as Examined Through Metaphor
Thesis directed by Professor Sharon Ford
This study examines a framework within which to
investigate organizational identity. It also examines
the consistency between organizational identity as
revealed by member metaphor and that portrayed through
organizational artifact. A great deal of consistency was
found between metaphors that emerged from both of these
The study was conducted at Naropa University in
Boulder, Colorado in the fall of 2001. Member metaphors
were gathered from faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
Sixteen individuals, four from each of the role groups,
participated in the interviews, and six additional
alumni responded to a written survey. All participants
answered questions from a protocol intended to elicit
metaphors pertaining to their experience with Naropa
University. Documents that included course catalogs, a
student handbook, and web sites were also analyzed.
The responses from participants were categorized
under the headings of Central, Enduring, Distinctive,
and Validation. The categories of Central, Enduring, and
Distinctive were initially used as a framework to
analyze responses and are considered useful when
discussing organizational identity. The fourth category
of Validation emerged from the data and is seen as a
necessary category for examining organizational
identity. Subcategories that emerged from member
metaphors within each of the four categories were
specific to Naropa University. The category of Central
had subcategories of Mission Statement, Contemplative
and Shambhala. Enduring had subcategories of Education,
and Change. Distinctive had subcategories of People and
of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. Validation had
subcategories of Origins and of Buddhism. All of these
subcategories were found to be consistent with the
artifacts that were examined.
To increase understanding about this methodology in
the examination of organizational identity, it is
suggested that this study be replicated in organizations
of various types and sizes. Knowledge of organizational
identity may be useful for the purposes of strategic
planning, change initiatives, dealing with crises, and
image campaigns in organizations.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.
I dedicate this dissertation to Sandra, Julie and Caz,
who are my metaphors of central, distinctive, enduring,
My thanks to my advisor, Sharon Ford, for the
expectations, clarity, humor and sanity that she
contributed to this process.
I would also like to thank my classmate, Judy Campbell,
for helping me to maneuver through the past four years.
My thanks to the Educational Leadership and Innovation
Program at the University of Colorado at Denver for
encouraging, accommodating and transforming students
such as myself, who are, in so many ways, non-
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the patience and
forbearance displayed by my colleagues at Regis
University. Rather than chide me for being mentally and
physically elsewhere while pursuing this degree, they
applauded my efforts.
1. INTRODUCTION ........................... 1
Background ........................ 1
Purpose of Study .................. 6
Research Questions ................ 7
Methodology ....................... 7
Definition of Terms ............... 8
Limitations of Study .............. 9
Overview of Study..................10
2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE....................11
Organizational Identity .......... 22
Research Design .................. 40
Naropa University ................ 41
Participants ..................... 56
4. RESEARCH FINDINGS ...................... 60
Contemplative ............... 75
Summary of Central..........8 6
Summary of Enduring..........101
Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche . 110
Summary of Distinctive ..... 115
Summary of Validation.......130
Further to Context........132
Concepts of Organizational
Reflections on the Use of
Considerations for Naropa ....... 158
Suggestions for Further
A. INTERVIEW GUIDE................162
B. FOLLOW-UP LETTER AND CONSENT
C. TELEPHONE PROTOCOL
D. DEMOGRAPHICS FORM.............17 0
E. NAROPA UNIVERSITY MISSION
F. NAROPA HISTORY.................179
A Way of Looking
It is the association after all
We seek, we would retrace our
thoughts to find
The thought of which this landscape
is the image,
Then pay the thought and not the
It is as if the tree and waterfall
Had their first roots and source
within the mind.
But something plays a trick upon the
A different kind of light, a
Flows down on the appropriated view.
Nothing within the mind fits. This
Thought and reflection must begin
To fit the image and to make it
Elizabeth Jennings (1965, p.216)
Perspectives on organizations have taken a number
of forms. Shafritz and Ott (1996), in reference to
organizational theory, tell us that "Only in the
twentieth century has intellectual substance and
tradition been given to a field that was the instinctual
domain of adventuresome entrepreneurs and cunning
politicos" (p. 1). Their book reflects this. Only four
of the forty-eight selections were written prior to the
twentieth century. Morgan (1997) does make reference to
earlier theorists, but his extensive overview of
organizational theory reflects this as well. The
richness of the field, as reflected by the variety of
approaches to it and the number of active theorists, is
a twentieth century phenomenon.
Of course, there were earlier contributions. Dating
from 500 BC, Sun-tzu's (trans.1983) was quite
prescriptive. Writing for the military, his
recommendations pertain to military success and embrace
hierarchy, communication, and planning. His approach is
prescriptive and practical and is intended to help the
reader achieve military victory. In 300 BC, Aristotle
(trans.1963) was perhaps prescient, in that his argument
is not unlike that reflected by the twentieth century's
plethora of approaches. He argued that each organization
reflects its unique environment. Therefore, different
approaches and structures are appropriate for different
For Shafritz and Ott (1996), organizational theory
can be defined as propositions that explain or predict
something about a social unit. They go on to define
organizations as "open systems" (p. 2). The variety of
influences on organizations as open systems contributes
to "many theories that attempt to explain and predict
how organizations and the people in them will behave in
varying organizational structures, cultures, and
Perspectives on organizations have indeed taken a
number of forms. Taylor (1947) saw organizations from a
mechanistic perspective and slotted workers into the
boxes of their organizational charts. Schein (1992)
views organizations from a cultural perspective, while
Katz and Kahn (1966) see them through open systems
theory. Morgan's (1997) thesis refers to using multiple
perspectives and learning from them.
Albert and Whetten's seminal article (1985) defined
organizational identity as that which organization
members claim as enduring, distinctive and central about
their organization. These three concepts, as proposed by
Albert and Whetten, serve as the theoretical framework
for this current study. While initially Albert and
Whetten argued that these could be used to directly
predict appropriate organizational action, Whetten
(2000) argues more recently that an understanding of an
organization's identity is not predictive but is a part
of understanding the organization. As such, it may be an
aid for decision makers.
Albert and Whetten advocate the examination of
member metaphor in order to determine organizational
identity. Their definition is present in much of what is
published about organizational identity; however,
searches show no research done in the prescribed manner.
There are those, including Bredeson (1985), Bolman and
Deal (1991) and Morgan (1997), who advocate managers or
researchers choosing the metaphors themselves and using
them as a lens through which to view the organization.
These authors have done some research in that manner but
not by allowing organizational members to produce the
metaphors themselves, which in turn would define an
Rosovsky (1990) claims that flexibility, in even as
traditional an institution as Harvard, is key to
success. The Carnegie Council (1980) states that
universities that do not know their identity will cease
to exist. In light of these views, it is certainly
appropriate to look at organizations in a manner that
will encourage a variety of perspectives and will help
to define organizational identity.
A recent paradigm shift (Kuhn, 1970) certainly
involves the use of the term "transformation". Morgan's
(1997) intention is to use metaphorical analysis in
order to transform organizations. Other perspectives on
transformation come from educators such as Mezirow
(2000),'leadership theorists such as Burns (1979), and
sociologists such as Freire (1970, 1998). Common to all
of them is learning from process and perspective.
Examining a variety of organizational metaphors of
identity makes this possible.
Purpose of Study
This study examined organizational identity of an
institution of higher education through metaphor. Albert
and Whetten's (1985) defining terms of central,
distinctive, and enduring were used as a framework for
considering the metaphors. The research considered the
organizational identity as discovered through metaphors
used by members and that portrayed in internal
Key to this research is the acceptance of a literal
rather than figurative use of metaphor (Ciardi, 1959;
Grant & Oswick, 2000; Jaynes, 1990; Lakoff & Johnson,
1980; Morgan, 1997). From the work of these researchers
and theorists, it can be accepted that a metaphor is the
manifestation, in words, of an underlying concept that
itself is interrelated with other similar concepts. To
examine organizational identity, I used Albert and
Whetten's 1985 definition of central, distinctive and
enduring as the theoretical framework and used the
understanding of metaphor as described above as the
The research questions were:
1. What similarities and differences are found in
the examination of organizational identity-
through member metaphor and that portrayed by
2. What framework emerges from this study for
examining organizational identity?
Albert (1998) discusses the question of identity
and states: "the question for measurement is what
metaphors different individuals choose to apply to the
organization, on what occasions, and for what purposes"
(p.3). He continues by stating: "One does not measure a
metaphor but rather assesses its insightfulness,
unexpectedness, aptness, and so on"(p.4).
The qualitative approach is consistent with the
research proposed in that "The qualitative point of view
involves understanding how the world looks to the people
being studied"(Krathwohl, 1997, p.237). Qualitative
methodology was used in this study, with face-to-face
interviews and institutionally produced documents
providing data. Analysis was done by examining the
metaphors used by those interviewed and the
relationships discovered therein.
Definition of Terms
Albert and Whetten's (1985)concepts of central,
distinctive, and enduring serve as the theoretical
framework for this study. The definitions of these three
concepts, used for this study, are consistent with those
used by Albert and Whetten. Central refers to "features
that are somehow seen as the essence of the
organization"(p.265). Distinctive indicates "features
that distinguish the organization from" similar
organizations, and enduring "points to features that
exhibit some degree of sameness or continuity over time"
(p.265). Claims of these three concepts together
comprise organizational identity according to Albert and
Metaphors "broaden perspectives, enhance
understanding and provide insight into the organization"
(Bredeson, 1988, p.293). The metaphors examined in this
study were the words and phrases used by the
organizational members during face-to-face interviews
and in responding to surveys, as well as institutional
Limitations of Study
The number of those interviewed in each group
(faculty, staff, students and alumni) did not
necessarily represent the size of the group.
Approaching the interviews with a definition of
organizational identity as that which is enduring,
central, and distinctive is a potential bias.
Beginning with a theoretical framework made it
likely that the larger categories that emerged would be
consistent with those of the theoretical framework used
for the study.
The researcher has worked in education for more
than twenty years and undoubtedly carries with him
certain preconceptions about universities.
Overview of Study
Organization member metaphor was used to examine
organizational identity in an institution of higher
education. These two terms, metaphor and organizational
identity, are explored in greater detail in Chapter 2.
The methodology is examined in greater detail in Chapter
3. Chapter 4 focuses on the research results, and in
Chapter 5 the findings, considerations are suggested and
suggestions are provided for further research.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Prior to the nineteenth century, large, complex
organizations represented the interests of, primarily,
religion, the state and the military (all three of which
were at times synonymous). Books such as The Art of War
(Sun-tzu, trans. 1983) and The Prince (Machiavelli,
trans. 1977) reflect this, with an emphasis on power and
the struggles between men of power and their armies. In
the nineteenth century, with the advent of the
industrial age, things began to change. While workers
had at times certainly been members of organizations
other than the state, there now arose organizations of
such size and efficiency that their power rivaled that
of the state. During the twentieth century, these
organizations have continued to grow in importance
(Shafritz and Ott, 1996).
Someday we may be able to decipher all the
information we now receive, and propose elegant answers
about organizations. Until then, we had best go well
beyond the early twentieth century theorists such as
Frederick Taylor (1947). Organizations have become ever
more a part of our lives. Their leaders are no longer
necessarily those who are closer to God, or command
large armies, but people who are thrust there by their
skills, luck or relationships. It is time, in the
twenty-first century, to examine these organizations in
another light, using metaphors as a tool and, while
acknowledging the theorists of last century,
acknowledging, also, that our organizations are no
longer merely referred to in human terms, but have been
transformed into entities with human traits. It is time
to look at their identities.
Included in the hundreds of references in Gareth
Morgan's Images of Organization (1997) is Aristotle's
Poetics (trans. 1963) in which Aristotle defines
metaphor as the use of the name of one thing to describe
another. Thousands of years later, this perspective has
changed as exemplified by another author, Bateson
(1979), who states that "metaphor is not just pretty
poetry, it is not either good logic or bad logic, but it
is in fact the logic upon which the biological world has
been built, the main characteristic and organizing glue
of this world"(p. 30).
There is an ongoing debate as to where, on the
figurative or literal continuum, metaphor lies. If
literal, metaphor affects the way in which we talk about
the world but not the way we see it. If figurative, it
becomes the primary shaper of the world that we see, and
all signs and symbols become metaphor. If literal,
metaphor is something that represents something else. If
figurative it is a something in and of itself and, by
extension, all language becomes metaphor, because the
relationship between language and meaning is figurative
(Lakoff & Johnson, 1980)
While Morgan (1997) is certainly to be recognized
for his work in using metaphors as a way of seeing and
understanding, George Lakoff was a pioneer whose
contributions made Morgan's work easier to understand.
Lakoff (1992) takes us further into territory that he
has been exploring since at least 1980 (Lakoff &
Johnson, 1980). Early in the 1992 essay, he pays homage
to Michael Reddy who Lakoff (1992) tells us: -
"showed, for a single very
significant case, that the locus of
metaphor is thought, not language,
that metaphor is a major and
indispensable part of our ordinary,
conventional way of conceptualizing
the world, and that our everyday
behavior reflects our metaphorical
understanding of experience"(p. 2).
Lakoff (1992) later defines metaphors as "mappings,
that is, sets of conceptual correspondences" (p. 5).
There is a commonality, for Lakoff, not only in how
metaphors are manifested in words, but also in the
underlying domains from which they spring. This is
similar to the patterns, metaphors and myths of
archetypal interpretation, a perspective influenced
strongly by Jung (1958) who believes that myths are
manifestations of myth forming structures that are
always present in the unconscious. Schorer (1946) states
"Myth is the essential substructure of all human
activity" (p.29). Wheelwright (1962) explains that
archetypes and metaphors are: "those which carry the
same or very similar meanings for a large portion, if
not all, of humanity" (p. Ill).
Jung's (1958) influence spread from psychology to
literary analysis, while Lakoff has taken things much
further. Once one starts down the path of metaphor, one
early begins to chase one's own tale. It is not unlike
the child's game of looking at the stars and reaching
with one's mind for the further star, and then reaching
for one beyond, and one beyond that, until the mind
tumbles through the infinity of stars without
consciously reaching at all. Chia (1996) states that
"Writing about metaphors is always a precarious
enterprise. For one thing, it is about using language to
write about the phenomenon of language itself an
invitation to get oneself tangled in the problems of
reflexivity" (p. 127). Before entangling ourselves
further with Lakoff, it is worth taking a quick look at
Jaynes (1990) .
Jaynes (1990) acknowledges that his argument is
"becoming fairly dense" (p. 54). For Jaynes (1990),
"Metaphor is the very constitutive ground of language"
(p. 48). As Jaynes believes, consciousness is based on
language. He goes on to argue his point at length and
uses his belief in the power of metaphor to do so.
Cole (1999), a physicist, discussing science as
metaphor, emphasizes the importance of metaphor when
looking "mostly at things we can never see" (p. 16). He
tells us "taking models too literally can lead us into
hopeless and unnecessary confusion" (p. 33). The
language of mathematics is, for Cole, another
perspective, another set of symbols used to tentatively
explain the concepts beneath.
Lakoff (1992), tells us "metaphors are mappings,
that is, sets of conceptual correspondences" (p. 5). He
goes on to say that "The metaphor is not just a matter
of language, but of thought and reason. The language is
secondary. The mapping is primary in that it sanctions
the use of source domain language and inference patterns
for target domain concepts" (p. 6). Lakoff' s (1992)
examples of a metaphor map, LOVE-AS-JOURNEY, turned
around, becomes his JOURNEY-AS-LOVE, and the conceptual
domains beneath are such that the inputs and outputs
flow in both directions and establish a relationship, be
it symmetrical or complementary (Bateson, 1972). The
connivance of discussions of organizational identity and
identification with organizations is another example of
these crossroads. Those who are part of the organization
contribute to its identity while at the same time are
influenced themselves by that identity (Pratt, 1998).
Lakoff (1992) gives us an example of the power of
metaphor to influence reality, "real, man-made objects"
(p.34). He uses the MORE-IS-UP metaphor, which results
in graphs that show more as going up. He goes on to say,
"Metaphors can be realized in
obvious imaginative products such as
cartoons, literary works, dreams,
visions, and myths. But metaphors
can be made real in less obvious
ways as well, in physical symptoms,
social institutions, social
practices, laws, and even foreign
policy and forms of discourse and
theory" (p. 34) .
A pertinent example cited by Lakoff (1992) is that
"CORPORATIONS ARE PERSONS", which "is a tenet of
American law" (p. 36). This man-made object (the
corporation) can now be held responsible for its
actions, and by extension, can certainly have an
The fallout from Lakoff' s view of metaphor
1. "Metaphor is the main mechanism
through which we comprehend abstract
concepts and perform abstract
2. Metaphors are mappings across
3. Mappings are not arbitrary, but
grounded in the body and in everyday
experience and knowledge.
4. Our metaphor system is central to
our understanding of experiences and
to the way we act on that
5. All subject matter cannot be
comprehended literally, without
(pp. 38 40)
Lakoff (1992), in the end, states: "No initial
commitment is made as to the form of an answer to the
question of what is metaphor" (p. 40). Having worked
through his pages as well as those of others such as
Jaynes (1990) and Cole (1999), I believe I understand
that an answer to that question is indeed a commitment
to tumbling through space, a space I create through my
own acceptance of, or release from, the constraints of
manifesting the conceptual world. And as I tumble, it is
likely that if I come across a concept that can somehow
be expressed in a metaphor, other similar concepts will
be residing nearby. As Stuart Albert (1998) states:
"Knowledge of a concept's habitat means knowing who its
neighbors are (some habitats are densely populated,
others are not), what the history of their relationship
has been, and what issues inevitably surface when they
interact" (p.7). The words may be signposts, but it is
clear that we need to remember, "The name is not the
thing named" (Bateson and Bateson, 1987, p.21) and
further that "The name of the name is not the name"
(p 21) .
The work of Lakoff and others laid a firm
foundation for Morgan and other organizational theorists
who see, through metaphor, a way in which to describe
the fluid and dynamic appearance of organizations.
Morgan chooses to use eight metaphors with which to
analyze organizations (Morgan, 1997). In an earlier
essay, co-authored with others (Morgan, Frost & Pondy,
1983), more metaphors are used. I believe it is somewhat
Grant and Oswick (1996), responding to Morgan
(1997), start by saying that "There can be little
dispute about the inevitability of metaphor. Nor about
its having a generative quality" (p.2). They go on to
say that in organizational theory, metaphor serves at
least three purposes. In discussing the first and second
purposes, they quote Barrett and Cooperrider (1990), who
first, see metaphor as "an invitation to see the world
anew" (p.222), and second, see metaphor as it
"facilitates the learning of new knowledge"(p.222). The
third purpose is that "the application of metaphor to
either new or existing phenomena is in itself a process
of experimentation" (Grant and Oswick, 1996 p. 4).
These, they feel, are more than an adequate base for the
use of metaphor in studying organizations.
Morgan (1997), in his introduction, states: "all
theory is metaphor"(p.5) and continues by saying that
"We have to accept that any theory or perspective that
we bring to the study of organization and management,
while capable of creating valuable insights, is also
incomplete, biased and potentially misleading" (p.5).
Morgan clearly does not believe that there is one
right way in which to see organizations. He finds
clarity and distortions in the use of each lens. As the
ways in which people in each organization see their
organizations are deciphered, so does one begin to see
and decipher the meaning of the organization itself.
Rather than writing a history of organization theory,
Morgan has written a book that challenges the reader to
reexamine the entire field of organization theory, by
showing us the application of one perspective after
another., He does however, admit that each of us cannot
help but have a favored framework and that there are
many metaphors other than those presented that may
provide valuable insights.
School reforms are yet another example of
metaphors. Each reform brings with it the attributes of
the appropriate metaphor, rather than a template for
ongoing change. Standardized assessment carries with it
a predefined set of approaches, curriculum, and teaching
styles. The instructional practice of whole language
offers others. Morgan does not tell us how to choose,
but that we should at least be aware of choices.
Reviewing the literature of the metaphor known as
organizational identity begins with a brief look at some
recent work in organization theory. McKechnie and
Donnelly-Cox (1996) ask the question "What is
organization theory a theory of (p. 36)?" They discuss
Fayol, Taylor and Barnard and summarize that: "the early
theorists started from a conception of management or
administration as a set of skilled practices, and later
moved to a more analytic consideration of organizational
processes. However, a satisfactory definition of the
formal organization proved elusive" (p. 40).
Sociological theories, organizing theories and economic
theories of organization are then discussed and meet a
similar fate. Finally, in examining an approach through
metaphor, they find that there is no master metaphor for
organization; rather there are a series of candidates.
Broekstra (1996) argues that an organization is a
system and that the system is a mind, as Gregory Bateson
defines mind. He uses some of the criteria for mind
drawn from Bateson (1979), as follows:
1. A mind is an aggregate of
interacting parts (equivalent to
the notion of the loosely coupled
2. Interaction between the-parts of
mind is triggered by difference.
3. The mind requires collateral
4. The mind requires circular chains
of determination. (Broekstra,
Broekstra considers this an "impressionistic sketch
of where the new metaphor of corporate consciousness may
lead us" (p. 69). He concludes, "After all, the world is
as we see it" (p.71). Certainly, within both his and
MacKechnie and Donnelly-Cox's search for a definition of
organization, there is ample room for the concept of
The discussion of organizational identity is a
recent one, unlike that of individual identity, which
dates to the Greeks (Aristotle, 1963; Chia, 1996). An
organization's identity is not the same as a person's.
Erikson (1959), after declaring that he will "not offer
a definitive explanation of it (identity) in this book"
(p. 9), takes a perspective in which identity is
constructed within a social context. Whetten (2000)
points out that organizational identity is a social
construct. Mapping the human genome may be possible, but
organizations lack a genetic makeup, unless one
considers the metaphors about them to be their genes
We want to define, categorize and measure
organizational identity, using our "pre-existing habits
of thought and standards of judgment" (Albert, 1998, p.
2). It is "the absence of agreement about definition
and measurement that makes the topic (organizational
identity) so fertile. Furthermore, if identity is a
metaphor rather than a construct, the question for
measurement is what metaphors different individuals
choose to apply to the organization, on what occasions
and for what purposes" (p. 3).
Albert and Whetten (1985) provided the earliest
definition of organizational identity as that which is
claimed as enduring, distinctive and central about the
organization. This definition has served not as a
yardstick, but as a focus for the discussion. Their
definition came about in an effort to make sense of the
response to their institution's budgetary cuts. As will
be seen in this chapter, much of what is written on
organizational identity uses these three concepts as a
point of departure.
This does not mean that there is agreement in this
field. Pratt and Foreman (2000a), in discussing other
articles, list what "they love and do not love about the
current state of identity research" (p. 141). They love
the diversity of opinions. They go on to discuss the
"beauty that such theoretical diversity adds" (p. 142).
From there, they recommend research points. These
include identity and plurality, in that multiple
identities may be the norm in pluralistic organizations.
They suggest we examine multiple identity management,
and suggest that identity management has to do with "the
well-being of both the overall organization and its
constituent members" (p. 143). In their summary, they
basically suggest a who, what, where and when of
identity and state that "individuals ultimately imbue
symbols and other media with meaning" (p. 43).
Whetten, (2000) cautions that, "organizational
identity could be misconstrued as the industrial
strength version of organizational culture" (p.4).
Organizational culture, according to Whetten, pertains
to data and the strength of different aspects of the
culture. Organizational identity is a given, and does
not lend itself to data-driven measurement.
Whatever organizational identity itself is,
discussion of it is certainly fluid (Albert, Ashforth
and Dutton, 2000; Gioia, Shultz and Corley, 2000) and
the three concepts of central, distinctive and enduring
are often discussed. Albert, Ashforth and Dutton argue
that "identity and identification are important in
contemporary organizations" (p.14), in part because of
the "loss of organizational moorings" (p.14). They state
that "A sense of identity serves as a rudder for
navigating difficult waters" (p.14).
Collins and Porras (1994) present a concept similar
to that of central, as a "core ideology as an essential
component of a visionary company" (p.81). They go on to
discuss that the importance of continued acceptance of
this core should in no way limit change, within the
parameters defined by the core.
Gioia, Shultz and Corley (2000) argue that
organizational identity is not enduring, but dynamic,
due to its reciprocal relationship with organizational
image, defined by them as a composite public view of the
organization or as a projection of the organization to
other people. They argue that this is a strength, as it
is helpful in "accomplishing change" (p.63). For them,
organizational identity is a "potentially precarious and
unstable notion, frequently up for redefinition and
revision by organization members" (p.64). They argue
that the relationship between image and identity works
to make identity unstable.
The differences between image and identity are
often part of the discussion of organizational identity,
with the former most often seen as a broader concept
related to ways in which organizational members believe
others see the organization, or as fabricated, projected
pictures aimed at various constituencies, or as the
public's perception of a given organization (Dutton &
Dukerich, 1991). While long-term customer satisfaction
results when the image marketed is similar to the actual
identity, the primary purpose of image, for marketing,
is sales (Espry, 1990; Sevier, 1998; Topor, 1986).
Gioia & Thomas (1996) investigated "how top
management in higher education institutions make sense
of important issues"(p.370). In order to accommodate
change and to think and act strategically, they say, the
institutions must change their image and their identity.
The authors cite Dutton & Dukerich's 1991 view that
image is often tied to identity.
In Gioia & Thomas'(1996) study, "strategic" issues
were those the three research subjects saw as moving
them into the desired future, while the "political"
issues indicated the status quo. "Image" was found to be
future-oriented, while "identity" was seen as something
that might follow image. They developed a number of
propositions. Two corollary questions emerged to guide
the subsequent quantitative study:
1. "Does the emergent theoretical
model apply to other academic
institutions of different size,
type, ownership and location?
2. If so, what are the
relationships between the key
emergent concepts (strategy,
structure, identity and image)
and the interpretation of
This article and research supports the view that
image and identity are interdependent and that
organizational identity can and does change. The
research suffers not from the fact that it was based on
grounded theory methodology, but that the grounded data
emerges from the interviews of only three people, all of
whom work closely together and, as a result, are
predisposed to give similar answers. The resultant
categories might well be the same if only one were
interviewed. The quantitative research is based on the
qualitative and suffers from that narrow beginning. The
findings are sometimes tautologies such as:
"If the concern is to make intentional, substantive
change, then some fundamental organizational attributes
must change". Simply stated this seems to say that if we
want change, we must change.
Elsbach and Kramer (1996) studied responses to MBA
rankings, published in Business Week. Respected
researchers (Albert & Whetten, 1985 and Dutton &
Dukerich, 1991; Dutton, Dukerich and Harquil, 1994) are
discussed in the introduction. Dutton, Dukerich and
Harquil (1994) distinguish between perceived
organizational identity and construed organizational
identity. After separating them out, the authors of this
article say that they are referring to both when
speaking of member's organizational identity.
The Business Week article, referred to above,
confirms that organizational members rationalize when
presented with information with which they disagree. In
this case, the members found the MBA ranking to be
disappointing and made excuses. The authors categorized
these excuses and found that the greater the threat, the
greater the excuses. They do find that excuses are made
in similar ways, regardless of the institution. This
leads, according to the authors, to some interesting
implications. One is that, given a strong identity
basis, members do not need to look for causes of
dissonant information. Instead they explain it away.
This may not be encouraging for those who wish to use
such information for change efforts. Another implication
is that symbols and "categorization processes may help
organizations to change or reshape their identities"
A term of use is "identity dissonance", used to
conceptualize the cognitive dissonance "related to the
disparity or inconsistency between member's perception
of their organization's identity and the identity
attributed by the Business Week survey"(p.48). This
dissonance seems to reflect the dissonance of multi-
layered organizational identities, something we may
encounter as we consider the next article discussed
Identification with the organization is explored
by Dutton, Dukerich and Harquil (1994) who develop a
model which leads to propositions about "how
organizational identification affects members' patterns
of social interaction" (p.l). They define organizational
identification as the "degree to which a member defines
him or herself by the same attributes that he or she
believes define the organization. A core assumption of
the study is that "people's sense of membership in the
social group (the organization) shapes their self-
concepts" (p 2 ) The initial discussion includes the
comment that organizational identification is not
necessarily a good thing and that it can lead to stress
and failure rather than pride and success, depending
very much on the organizational identity itself.
The concept of collective organizational identities
is introduced in the article discussed in the last
paragraph, consisting of the members shared beliefs. We
are again introduced to Albert and Whetten's 1985
definition of organizational identity as "that which is
distinctive, central and enduring" about their
organization, and it is left unclear as to whether they
believe that it is management or members who define
Pratt and Rafaeli (1997) examine the ways in which
organizational dress reveals social identity within the
organization. The authors explore the ways in which
images of one's work organization shape the strength of
one's identification with the organization. More
specifically, they "develop the thesis that the symbol
of dress...offers a useful and accessible medium for
disclosing conflicting organizational issues that are
less easily grasped or discussed" (p. 2).
Before Pratt and Rafaeli (1997) begin the
background discussion, we find reference to Albert and
Whetten (1985) once again. Here it is reference to their
description of "hybrid" identities and their
manageability. Once we get into the theoretical
background we soon find ourselves in symbolism, but the
symbols discussed are distinguished as "organizational"
(p.3), rather than linguistic. Further, they are
"objects" (p.3) which, for the authors, are "context
specific" (p.3). Given the nature of symbolism, it is
important to simplify matters, and the authors do so.
Pratt and Rafaeli (1997) found that nurses' choice
of dress and their attitudes to it were representative
of "multiple and conflicting perspectives on multiple
identities" (p.12). Unit identity became a subset of
multiple identities and raised more questions pertaining
to sub-units and roles within them. This supports their
thesis that "dress served as a vehicle for representing
and negotiating a web of multiple and contradictory
identity-related issues" (p. 21).
The issues of multiple identities affecting
employees, as well as the effect of external pressures
on these identities, seems, in the latter case,
analogous to the findings of the study on Business Week
ranking cited above. Pratt and Rafaeli (1997) suggest
that conversation itself may alleviate some of the
conflict about dress and about larger identity issues.
The authors close with a reminder that dress codes may
be more significant than management usually realizes.
Pratt and Foreman (2000b) state that "identity
involves an organization asking, 'Who am I?' or in the
case of a collectivity, 'Who are we?'" (p.18). They
state that "within any single entity there may exist
multiple answers and multiple identities"(p.18). Both
Pratt and Foreman and Albert and Whetten (1985) suggest
that multiple identities may make an organization more
adaptive and thus give the organization an advantage
over those whose identities are more narrowly defined.
Pratt and Foreman go on to discuss ways in which
managers can manage an organization with multiple
identities, including "compartmentalization,
aggregation, deletion and integration" (p.40).
Van Krippenberg and van Schie (2000) examine
organizational identification as it relates to increased
employee retention and organization related effort. They
hypothesize that membership within a work-group has a
greater positive effect than membership in the
organization alone. While Dutton, Dukerich and Harquil
(1994) are cited, Albert & Whetten are not. This
research pertains to organizational identification, and
the study assessed four variables:
1. "Identity should be negatively
related to turnover intentions.
2. Identification should be related
to willingness to expend effort.
3. Identification should be
positively related to employee's
job motivation and involvement.
4. Identification leads individuals
to ascribe group-defining
characteristics to themselves."
These variables were expected to bear a stronger
relationship to work-group identification than to
identification with the organization as a whole. Surveys
were employed to collect data; two samples were
collected through a mail survey, using a reliable scale.
Both samples showed a stronger correlation between work-
group identification and the variables than between
organizational identification and the variables.
The authors reject any claims of causality in this
relationship and criticize their own "common method"
approach. However, they feel that their findings mean
that "other foci of identification may be more important
in day-to-day organizational life than the organization
as a whole" (p. 7). The results also seem to show that
management practice and research may "benefit from an
increased focus on the work-group"(p.7).
They discuss the negative side of strong work-group
identification, which relates to diminished flexibility
and a strengthening of work-group goals at the expense
of organizational goals. In higher education, there seem
to be numerous examples of one program or department
feeling that, because of revenue stream, mission
relationship, or student numbers, it is more important
than another department or program. The layers revealed
are well worth considering as we examine organizational
We begin to see some common threads as we examine the
research done in the areas of organizational identity
and identification. Prior to 1985, little was directly
written about these topics. Since 1985, Albert and
Whetten's definition of organizational identity has been
a focus for research and discussion.
Dutton and Dukerich's (1991) and Dutton, Dukerich and
Harquil's (1994) articles serve a similar function for
organization identification. The idea that the
identities are multilayered seems to be gaining
popularity. The role that managers play has a dimension
that includes the potential manipulation of symbols and
contexts. The consequences of the latter remain to be
seen and discussed. Research about what members bring to
organizational identity is another perspective we need
in order to better understand organizations and our role
Albert and Whetten's (1985) definition has remained
a point of departure for research and theory in the
field or organizational identity. Organizational image
and identification with organizations are frequently
discussed in conjunction with organizational identity.
Metaphor is certainly an appropriate tool with which to
examine organizational identity.
"It's like life ---- a game whose
purpose is to discover the rules,
which rules are always changing and
Chapter 2 presents a background to the research
done in this study. Research design and interview
questions form the body of this chapter.
The purpose of this study is to examine the use of
organization member's metaphors as a means of
determining organizational identity. This approach is
suggested by Albert and Whetten (1985). Morgan (1997)
argues that metaphor should be used to examine
organizational theories in order to understand their
complexity and to help us to gain perspective. Bredeson
(1988) has used metaphor to examine the principalship.
In Chapter 2 theory about organizational identity was
examined. Despite claims that it would be worthwhile, my
searches have uncovered no research which solicits and
uses member metaphor in order to examine organizational
Qualitative inquiry was the methodological approach
used in this study. Data was gathered through face-to-
face interviews, and the metaphors shared by the
participants in these interviews served to examine
organizational identity. The text from the language of
interviews, observations, and reflection often forms the
raw data of qualitative inquiry. Miles and Huberman
(1994) suggest focusing on words as the basic medium"
(p. 51). I interviewed participants in order to collect
and analyze language as a way of revealing metaphors
that were categorized in reference to organizational
identity. Albert and Whetten's (1985) definition of
organizational identity as that which is central,
distinctive, and enduring facilitated the design of the
interview questions as well as the analysis of data.
Naropa University (Naropa), in Boulder, Colorado
was selected for this study because it is physically
convenient, access was granted, and it is relatively
small, meaning that one interviewer was able to obtain
enough data for analysis. Naropa University was studied
through the use of metaphors shared by organizational
members, as well as through institutional artifacts.
Naropa is a private, non-profit, liberal arts college
offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in
transpersonal psychology, contemplative psychology,
Buddhist studies, writing, environmental studies,
gerontology, somatic psychology, and early childhood
education. There are approximately nine hundred
students, forty-eight full-time and two hundred and
fifty adjunct faculty (Naropa 2001a), and hundreds of
alumni. Thirty-two staff are listed in the 2001-2002
course catalog (Naropa, 2001a). Because of Naropa's
small size, the study was not confined to any one
The sample was purposeful through the selection of
participants who provided information-rich data, and the
study maximized variation by including equal numbers of
participants in various roles (Patton, 1990). This was
done by interviewing members of the Naropa population
who were in the roles of students, staff, faculty and
"The validity, meaningfulness and insights
generated from qualitative inquiry have more to do with
the information-richness of the cases selected and the
observation/analytical capabilities of the researcher
than with sample size" (Patton, 1990, p.185). Patton
also states: "There are no rules for sample size in
qualitative inquiry" (p.184). I conducted sixteen
interviews, four with members of each of the four role
groups of students, staff, faculty and alumni. I also
gathered data from six surveys from alumni not
From the office of the Academic Vice President
lists of current Naropa students, staff, faculty and
alumni were obtained. Attempts were made to contact
those selected by phone and email. When contacted, they
were informed about the purpose of the study (Appendix
C). When a prospective interviewee agreed to
participate, a cover letter and consent form were sent
confirming participation details (Appendix B).
The interviews took place on or near the Naropa
campus. Interviews took an average of one hour each and
were audiotaped and transcribed by me. I provided all
Interviews were interspersed, so as to allow time
between them for partial analysis of the data and
reconsideration of and reflection on the protocol items.
The research was designed "to contribute to fundamental
knowledge and theory7' (Patton, 1990, p. 150) The
research took place during the fall of 2001.
The interview guide (Appendix A) provided a series
of questions and served as a protocol to follow during
the interview. Each scripted question was followed, as
appropriate, with probing questions aimed at eliciting
and confirming metaphors. Thus, the interview
instrumentation made it possible to analyze respondents'
metaphors in a comparative sense while placing fewer
constraints upon their thought processes. While this
gave structure to the interview, it did not result in a
wholly structured interview. Participants often
responded in an unstructured manner. Once the first
question was asked, there was no guarantee that the next
question in the script would be the next asked. However,
most questions in the interview guide were addressed
during each interview. The intention was "that the
persons being interviewed respond in their own words to
express their own personal perspectives" (Patton, 1990,
p. 287) .
Each interview began with a warm-up, during which I
introduced myself to the respondent and set a casual
tone. The respondent was assured that the interview was
confidential. I then asked the interviewee to tell me a
story that he or she felt exemplified their Naropa
experience, and then to brainstorm some words or phrases
that Naropa brought to mind. These I noted so as to be
able to refer back to them as the interview progressed.
These were helpful in forming categories for analysis.
The questions were designed to examine, through
metaphor, organizational identity and to encourage
respondents to talk freely. The three concepts used to
examine organizational identity in this study were:
3. Distinctive (Albert and Whetten, 1985)
The primary interview questions were as follows:
- Tell me a story that springs to mind when you
think about Naropa.
- Tell me about how you came to be involved with
(Asked in order to get at what
predispositions the respondent might
have. Responses were categorized, if
possible, according to the three concepts
- Exploration sometimes included:
- How did you first hear of Naropa?
- When did that happen?
What other universities or schools have you been
- Exploration sometimes included:
- What were your experiences there?
- How do they compare with Naropa?
How has Naropa changed over the time you have
been here? (addresses element of "enduring")
- Exploration sometimes included:
- What has not changed?
- How do you feel about that?
- Is that consistent with other things
you see at Naropa?
- Could you elaborate on that?
Suppose I was new to Naropa. Regardless of where
on campus I was involved, what do you think I
would find? (Simulation question) (addresses
element of "central")
- Exploration might include:
- Say I found myself in the president's
office. How would that be similar to
what you have just described?
- In what ways do you believe Naropa is different
from other institutions that you are familiar
with? (addresses element of "distinctive")
- Does Naropa claim to be different from other
universities? (addresses element of
- Exploration might include:
- How does Naropa show this?
- Finally, a direct comparison question was asked:
- Are there other organizations that you are
familiar with that remind you of Naropa? (This is
simply looking for comparative metaphors).
In the conclusion of the interview, I re-visited
the list of words and phrases that were put together at
the beginning of the interview, as well any items I
found especially interesting. I also asked the
interviewee to add any final thoughts.
"Analysis is the interplay
between researchers and data. It is
both science and art. It is science
in the sense of maintaining a
certain degree of rigor and by
grounding analysis in data.
Creativity manifests itself in the
ability of researchers to aptly name
categories, ask stimulating
questions, make comparisons, and
extract an innovative, integrated,
realistic scheme from masses of
unorganized raw data. It is the
balance between science and
creativity that we strive for in
doing research. There are procedures
to help provide some standardization
and rigor to the process. However,
these procedures were designed not
to be followed dogmatically but
rather to be used creatively and
flexibly by researchers, as they
deem appropriate. (Corbin & Strauss,
Key to data analysis is asking questions and making
comparisons of the data (Corbin and Strauss, 1998).
Analysis was done throughout the time that data was
gathered, through notes from and reflection on each
interview as well as through continued reading of the
artifacts. Transcribing the tapes provided another
opportunity for me to develop memos, which assisted in
analysis. These memos were created on a computer, while
transcribing. They were helpful in establishing
relationships and creating preliminary coding. While I
began data analysis using the categories of central,
distinctive, and enduring, I allowed others to emerge.
Coding is interpretation and analysis (Corbin &
Strauss, 1998, Miles & Huberman, 1994, Patton, 1990). My
coding consisted of labeling the data, in this case in
categories. I implemented open coding, i.e. starting the
process without a set list of codes. After the open
coding, it was necessary to review key data using a list
of codes generated during the open coding. Coding took
into account the parameters of central, distinctive, and
enduring and was done using NVIVO software.
Open coding examines each word, each metaphor, and
each concept in isolation. Axial coding is the step
taken when one looks at relationships between them.
Selective coding is the step at which I integrated the
different categories. Open, axial, and selective coding
are not easily separated, nor should they be. These
terms are Corbin and Strauss's (1998). My coding took
these three, open, axial and selective, into account.
They take place throughout the coding process and lead
toward one another. "Whereas open coding fractures the
data in concepts and categories, axial coding puts those
categories back together in new ways by making
connections between a category and its sub-categories"
(Pandit, 1996, p.8). The coding, the running memos and
the use of NVIVO computer software helped to clarify the
relationships between the metaphors. Only with time does
a hierarchy develop. One might think of a jigsaw puzzle.
In open coding I define the pieces, their shapes, and
their sizes. Next, the pieces are put together. Finally,
we look at the picture, at the pieces left over, and at
other similar pictures. However, this does not take
place as a sequence, but may involve any or all of the
steps at any time.
Throughout, the questions of process must be asked
and answered by changes in context: how are these
properties, dimensions, and relationships related to the
context or conditions in which they're expressed or take
place? (Corbin & Strauss, 1998; Krathwohl, 1997; Patton,
Coding led to categories. Categories and sub-
categories were developed from the patterns of labels
and relationships that emerged from the coding, and
helped to build theory and process. Categories tend to
be more abstract than concepts. As concepts emerge, so
do categories. While I defined a core category as
identity, and I have made assumptions that the three
concepts of identity (central, distinctive and enduring)
would be somehow reflected in the metaphors I collected,
it was by no means inconceivable that open and axial
coding would lead me to a different construct. If one is
to think hierarchically, the bottom of the pyramid is
made up of codes, above which are sub-categories, then
categories, and finally, in a perfect world, a pinnacle
made up of theory. Just as the atom replicates the
universe, it might be more appropriate to think of the
theory, the categories, and the codes all intertwined so
that theory is one with the system.
A qualitative analysis program (NVIVO)made it
easier to analyze text by allowing me to easily number
sentences and paragraphs as well as create memos and
codes that assisted analysis.
Key to qualitative analysis is the researcher, who
must take into account that "it is not possible to be
completely free of bias" (Corbin and Strauss,1998, p.
97). Rather, the researcher must acknowledge the biases
and take them into account. A lone researcher must
decide what questions to ask of the data and find
reasons for doing so and must become absorbed in the
material, yet be able to step back and analyze it.
Creativity is key to qualitative analysis (Corbin &
Strauss, 1998; Patton, 1990). Patton recommends getting
there through openness, flexibility, brainstorming,
avoiding linear thought, trusting oneself, working at
it, and playing at it.
Prior to and throughout the interviews and
subsequent analysis, written artifacts were reviewed and
categorized. These were gathered through the Office of
Public Relations at Naropa as well as through other
sources. Artifact information was compared to data
obtained from the interviews.
An analysis of text-based artifacts preceded and
followed the analysis of the interviews. Artifacts were
gathered from Naropa and the internet. The analysis of
the artifacts served as a comparison to the analysis of
the interviews. I examined artifact information in light
of the definition of organizational identity as that
which is central, distinctive, and enduring as well as
in light of the categories that emerged from the
interviews. I also allowed for the possibility of other
categories emerging from the artifacts. These artifacts
included web sites, student handbooks, catalogs and the
Naropa Mission Statement, which were assessed for
metaphors of identity.
Following the acceptance of the dissertation
proposal (September 26, 2001), the collection of written
material about Naropa University began. Brochures,
literary magazines, university bulletins, a student
handbook, books, newspaper clippings, and web site
information were gathered. The earliest materials were
from the 1970's and the most recent from 2001. Those
referenced in this research include course catalogs from
1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1985, 1999, 2000 and 2001. Also
referenced is the 2001 Student Handbook. The 1980 and
1999 issues of a Naropa literary magazine are referenced
as is a 1975 Naropa journal, as well as a book by a key
Naropa figure, Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.
I began by reading the materials to familiarize
myself with some of the written perspectives on Naropa.
Reviewing and gathering literature was to continue
throughout the process of gathering data from
To begin gathering data, I approached the Academic
Vice President at Naropa who helped me find study
participants. An email was sent out to all of the
Alumnus for whom there were email addresses. A selection
of faculty members, staff and students were approached
through the Academic Vice President's office and were
asked to volunteer. A list of 16 volunteers was
generated, which included students who had enrolled in
the fall of 2001 as well as some faculty who had been
with Naropa since its inception in 1974. The Vice
President had suggested some of the volunteers as data-
rich possibilities. Others were selected in order to
increase the variety of subjects. The first two
interviews were done quickly and served to make me more
comfortable with the protocol and the process, as well
as, upon review of the interviews, to give me an
opportunity to examine and revise the interview
protocol, adding some questions and discarding others.
This process of revision was to continue throughout. I
confidentially interviewed 16 individuals, four each of
faculty, staff, students and alumni. One alumnus
interview was so personal as to make confidentiality
difficult and has been left out of the research. Because
six alumnus surveys were obtained through email, it was
not thought necessary to do another alumnus interview.
Because there were so many alumnus volunteers, I
decided, with committee approval, to email my questions
to those alumni who expressed willingness to complete a
survey via email and received six more responses. These
documents were analyzed, as were the transcriptions of
the interviews. Throughout the process, I also talked,
informally, to many other members of the Naropa
community who expressed a great deal of interest in my
research. Many of the participants, as well as
administrative personnel at Naropa, asked that I share
the results of my findings with them. Administrators
seemed interested in the findings for possible
consideration in planning. I have included a section in
Chapter 5 that offers considerations for Naropa. Midway
through the analysis, two of the transcriptions were
analyzed by an inter-rater, a graduate student at the
University of Denver, with results similar to mine.
The data reported in Chapter 4 is based upon
interviews and surveys from 21 participants. The ages of
those interviewed and surveyed ranged from 18 years old
to 63 years old. One was a teenager, three were in their
twenties, three in their thirties, five in their
forties, seven in their fifties and two in their
sixties. Twelve of the participants were female and
nine male. All of the faculty members were over 50 years
old. The students ranged in age from 18 to 42 and the
staff ranged from 26 to 56. Alumni ranged in age from 26
Nine participants considered themselves Buddhist,
although several qualified this by stating that they
were Buddhist in some ways, but not others. This was not
explored in any depth, as participants were not
comfortable exploring it. All four of the faculty
interviewed considered themselves Buddhist, as did two
of the staff, two of the alumni and one of the students.
The youngest of the participants who considered him or
herself a Buddhist was 42 years old.
The sample included six participants whose original
involvement with Naropa was in the 1970's, five whose
involvement began in the 1980's, six whose involvement
began in the 1990's and four who have become involved
since 2000. Eleven of the participants were currently
involved with Naropa at the time of the study. Five of
the participants who consider themselves Buddhist were
originally involved with Naropa in the 1970's, and of
those five, four are still involved with Naropa.
As can be seen in Chapter 5, data analysis allowed
me to utilize the concepts of central, enduring, and
distinctive (Albert and Whetten, 1985), and also allowed
a fourth concept, validation, to emerge. The results of
the analysis are presented and discussed as narrative in
Chapter 5, telling the story of identity through the
metaphors that I encountered and showing how the concept
of identity that emerges might be of use to the
institution studied, to the theory of organizational
identity, and to other organizations wishing to reflect
Qualitative analysis is the best approach to
an examination of organizational identity through
metaphor. This study will build on theory in the field.
Czarniawska (1997) and Whetten (2000) both argue that,
given the multiple and interdisciplinary perspectives
involved, the only reasonable way to report findings in
organizational theory is through narrative. Chapter 5
will consist of the narrative discussion of research
findings in this study and will discuss responses to
research questions posed in Chapter 1.
The purpose of this study was to examine the
organizational identity of an institution of higher
education through metaphor. The two research questions
1. What similarities and differences are found in
the examination of organizational identity
through member metaphor and that portrayed by
2. What framework emerges from this study for
examining organizational identity?
Chapter 3 presents the research methodology used in
this study. The results of this research form the body
of Chapter 4.
Qualitative research, as discussed in Chapter 3,
can involve the categorization of words and phrases
(metaphors) in order to develop concepts and theories.
Chapter 2 presented a review of the literature that
supports the use of metaphors as lenses, which allow us
to examine concepts from a variety of perspectives.
Chapter 2 also presents the theory of organizational
identity. In Chapter 4, the metaphors used by interview
participants and survey respondents are presented.
The data in this chapter is presented in categories
consistent, when appropriate, with those of enduring,
distinctive, and central, suggested by Albert and
Whetten (1985). The categories that emerged from the
responses to the interview questions are:
Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
These categories provide the framework for the
presentation of data in this chapter. The selections
presented in each section are those that are
representative of the responses. Selected responses are
listed in their entirety since emphasis in this research
is on the words and phrases chosen by the participants.
Representative responses are arranged by interview
participant's type of relationship with Naropa (Alumnus,
Faculty, Staff, Student). Chapter 5 will focus on
interpretation of the findings through addressing each
of the research questions proposed in the study.
Concepts that emerged from this research, considerations
for Naropa, and suggestions for further research are
also addressed in Chapter 5.
The first section of responses within each of the
four primary categories (central, enduring, distinctive
and validation) represent those elicited from
participants through the question pertaining directly to
the category. The other sections coded within each of
the categories are those that emerged from the interview
protocol as a whole. Discussion of the way the primary
categories and sub-categories are addressed in the
written artifacts is included in each of the sections,
which present the categories, prior to which a section
is included which discusses context.
Throughout the interviews that were done for this
research, the statements made by participants were
influenced by differences in the context in which each
knew Naropa. This section is included in order to take
some of that context into account.
Shafritz and Ott (1996) refer to the organization as
an open system. As such, context must be considered. The
context might include the physical surroundings of the
organization as well as the larger system made up of
similar institutions. In Naropa's case, this could
include other institutions of higher education. The
context includes events taking place in the larger
system, such as wars, recessions and presidential
resignations. Other elements of context'pertain to the
people in and around an organization. In qualitative
research, context also pertains to the researcher and
what the researcher hears and has experienced. Some of
the information presented in this section is based upon
Trungpa, Rinpoche, often referred to as the founder
of Naropa, came to Boulder in 1970 and lived there, on
and off, until his death, elsewhere, in 1987. The
Boulder of 1970 was a small town in the foothills of the
Colorado Rocky Mountains. It was still a town in which
one could get run off the road riding a bicycle, and
could get harassed in a bar for having long hair.
There was, in the early seventies, a distant war
going on in a foreign country, Vietnam, that most
Americans had never heard of prior to the 1960's, a war
that might well have gone on forever had it not been for
television and television's ability to bring the war
into our living rooms. First hand, we were witness to
self-immolating Buddhist monks.
In Boulder it was a time when it felt as if
anything were possible, as long as it had to do with
creativity. Herbal teas, rock bands, tofu factories and
communes were taken seriously. Some have survived. The
antiwar movement blossomed and there were fears and
hopes that the establishment, including the University
of Colorado, would be torn down. Drug use was common.
It was thought that not only the university, but
also other symptoms of the establishment might soon
cease to exist. Those symptoms included, for many, the
church and the political system. Nationally, it felt as
if there were an opportunity for change. Even a
president could be made to resign.
Boulder was still a town in which a city councilman
who advocated gay rights was recalled, and it was a town
far from other countries, with very little in the way of
diverse or international influence. It was mostly white,
quite middle class and reasonably well educated. It was
into this town that Trungpa, Rinpoche came in 1970.
If there were a Buddhist community of any size in
Boulder prior to his arrival, it was certainly not
visible. Soon after his arrival, however, Buddhists were
quite visible in Boulder. It wasn't long before Allen
Ginsberg and other figures from the Beat movement
appeared. Ginsberg appeared at the University of
Colorado as a guest lecturer on American literature and
could be seen drinking at a local bar.
The message that "Chaos is extremely good
news"(Naropa, 1977) was timely. A genuine Rinpoche
telling people that they could be unconventional was
well received. In 1973, I moved out of a small, two-room
flat on Pearl Street, in Boulder. Anything was still
possible. In 1974, occupying the same rooms, out of
chaos sprang The Naropa Institute. There are undoubtedly
legal documents that give the names of its founders, and
someone might still have financial records attesting to
this. There were famous poets present as well as Chogyam
Trungpa, Rinpoche. Sparks flew and a Summer Institute
attracted far more participants than had been
anticipated. All the better, then, that Naropa did not
have accreditation. All the better, that it felt foreign
and that one never knew if what was written in the early
catalogs was consistent with what was actually taking
place. All the better, that the founder was rumored to
be drinking heavily and sleeping with his students. And
all the better that Naropa offered something that was
other than the traditional approach to education.
Trungpa, Rinpoche welcomed the West and defined
Buddhism in such a way that it was all right for
Westerners to be Buddhist. Contemplation was a part of
Naropa from the beginning. Outrageous it may have been,
but if outrageous means unconventional, those were
outrageous times. Naropa gave structure to the
outrageous and institutionalized the contemplation, the
Buddhism, and the creativity. It encouraged new
perspectives, which still are evident in degrees such as
Contemplative Psychology and Dance Therapy. Who else
would have had a Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied
Poetics, or a Literary Magazine named Bombay Gin?
As the decision was made to pursue accreditation,
and the seventies gave way to the eighties, and as
threats to the American establishment went the way of
the Symbionese Liberation Army, Naropa continued to
succeed. Trungpa Rinpoche died not long after Naropa
gained regional accreditation in 1986. An endowment was
established, and more degrees were offered. Naropa now
welcomes first year undergraduates, offers housing to
students, has several campuses, and even offers online
Central, as defined in Chapter 1, is "features that
are somehow seen as the essence of the organization".
Categories from this study that emerged and were
determined to be under the heading of central, were
mission, contemplative and Shambhala. Some responses
categorized as central are the following.
"The first word that comes to me is heart. What
that means to me is just the authenticity of expression.
The sense that I could talk to any teacher about a
problem or a concern and work things out"(Alumnus 26).
"Contemplative practice is definitely core at
Naropa, whatever form that may take" (Alumnus 17).
"Meditation, lively discussions, larger view of the
purpose of education" (Alumni Survey 2).
"Buddhist philosophy put into action"(Alumni Survey
"Contemplative practice"(Alumni Survey 4).
"Compassion. You find that among students, among
faculty, among staff and the interactions between"
"I think the Shambhala teachings are really what's
core" (Faculty 24).
"Central to me is the sort of cutting edge of
beginning something. We're really always
"I would say a desire to help others, to be a
positive influence in the world, to help the world in
whatever way you can" (Staff 19).
"The most obvious thing is the contemplative
approach to education" (Staff 18)
"That everybody really tries to be present and
mindfully aware and wants to be, but we're all still
human" (Student 36).
Summary. Central to the artifacts is the current
Mission Statement. While participants were not familiar
with the exact wording of the Mission Statement, their
responses were consistent with the concepts expressed in
the Mission Statement and these concepts were seen as
central. Contemplative practices, which are encouraged
throughout the curriculum, were also seen by
participants as central. Shambhala and what it
represents, which includes compassion as well as a
desire to help others, is core for some and is also
consistent with the mission statement. These three
categories, Mission Statement, contemplative, and
Shambhala, are included within the larger category of
The current mission of Naropa University is stated
in the 2001 course catalog and the 2001 student
handbook, as well as on the new (Naropa, 2001d) and old
(Naropa, 2001c) web pages. Early course catalogs did not
include a Mission Statement as such.
The Mission of Naropa University is to:
1. Offer educational programs that cultivate
awareness of the present moment through
intellectual, artistic, and meditative disciplines;
2. Foster a learning community (composed of
students, faculty, staff, trustees, and Alumnus)
that uncovers wisdom and heart;
3. Cultivate openness and communication, sharpen
critical intellect, enhance resourcefulness, and
develop effective action in all disciplines;
4. Exemplify the principles grounded in Naropa
University's Buddhist educational heritage;
5. Encourage the integration of world wisdom
traditions with modern culture;
6. Be nonsectarian and open to all.
(Naropa, 2001a, p.5)
The sample that follows is representative of
interview and survey statements that were coded to this
"Oh I don't know what their current mission
statement is exactly. I think it is probably about
contemplative education. I don't remember or I'm not
even sure if they had a coherent mission statement at
the time that I went there" (Alumnus 23).
"To apply Buddhist principles to higher education
without being sectarian, a goal which it has not
completely reached" (Alumni Survey 1).
"Foster development of intellect and intuition by
encouraging spiritual growth within higher education"
(Alumni Survey 2).
"Naropa's mission is to offer Courses that teach
the basic philosophy of Buddhism along with the current
Western views of each program. In addition, self-
development is a vital part of each program"(Alumni
"Probably has something to do with experiential
learning within a Buddhist context" (Alumni Survey 4).
"To nurture seekers of truth who will infiltrate
the greater system (maybe not the "official" mission,
but that's my take on it)" (Alumni Survey 5).
"In my mind, it is to bring this wisdom teaching
from the culture of Tibetan Buddhism to our western
world" (Alumni Survey 6).
"Where the initial founding vision was something
that the studies should be imbued with this quality of
contemplation or you know even specifically meditation
practice. Which has a way of undercutting the sort of
conceptual or intellectual territoriality that affects a
lot of institutions of higher learning"(Faculty 22).
"Create an enlightened society. But he (Trungpa,
Rinpoche) also talked about it in terms of a 500 year
project. The mission is to provide an education, higher
education to undergraduates and graduates that
integrates intellect and intuition" (Faculty 24).
"I don't think I could in any way express that
vision as something we would all be able to ascribe to.
There was never anything handed down as 'This is the
vision.' The ways that the students of Trungpa, Rinpoche
who were trying to start the school interpreted that was
as varied as the people who were trying to do it.
Definitely I would say that, one way or another, there
was some kind of idea that Naropa was not trying to be
the same sort of educational situation as one could
already find in the states. Definitely I would say that.
But the bottom line recognition that there are deep
flaws in academic approaches to the way a human being
grows into their wisdom would be something I think we
could agree on"(Faculty 28).
"That has to do with developing awareness in the
present moment, sorta paraphrasing here" (Staff 19).
"Well, I think that it was a way of connecting to
the way westerners worked with people."(Staff 25).
"I think it was to create a community to make it
possible for contemplative education. To bring both
teachers and students at all levels together" (Student
Summary. A mission or vision that was presumed to be
in place at the time of the inception of Naropa is
referred to a few times; however, most spoke in
reference to a perception of the current mission.
Buddhist principles of contemplation and meditation were
mentioned, and. there were frequent references to the
integration of Buddhist and traditional Western views
and of intuition and intellect. Self-awareness and
spiritual growth were also mentioned.
Most respondents were unsure of the stated mission,
but individuals' statements did reflect at least part of
what the university shares as its mission in printed
material. Words and phrases that appeared in both
participant responses and printed documentation from the
university included "awareness of the present moment",
"principles grounded in Buddhist heritage" and
"integration of traditions with modern culture".
The cover of the 1999-2000 Naropa course catalog
includes the phrase "25 Years of Contemplative
Education". Contemplative education is not mentioned on
the cover of the 2000-2001 or 2001-2002 course catalogs.
These catalogs do devote three long paragraphs to
contemplative education, and the Student Handbook
(Naropa, 2001b) includes one paragraph. The Student
Handbook (2001b) says, in part, that "Naropa
University's approach to learning is called
'contemplative education'. By joining body/mind
awareness with academic disciplines, learning can become
infused with the experience of confidence, insight and
friendliness to yourself and others"(p.14). The course
catalog includes more and informs the reader that
contemplative education "balances the study of specific
academic disciplines with traditional practices for
training in awareness"(Naropa, 2001b,p. 9)
The sample that follows is representative of
interview and survey statements that were coded to the
category of contemplative.
"It's not study in the sense of building
credentials and building knowledge as if it were a
credential. It is as much tearing down habitual blind
spots, looking at habitual blind spots, breaking down
habitual resistances to growing and understanding. So
it's almost reverse education in a way it seems"(Alumnus
"It was not sitting by a river I chose and just
spacing out. Dedication to continually uncovering what
stands in the way of being the most whole person you can
"I joke that I spent a lot of time laying on the
floor, but the reality is that was some of the most
valuable time I had there because it allowed me to
really integrate information in a way that I wouldn't
have been able to do if I had been cramming" (Alumnus
"An attempt to live without having your mind on
cruise control; to me, the term is not synonymous with
"meditative," but with learning to live in the present"
(Alumni Survey 1).
"First I think of meditation. And the words of one
prof: without meditation there is no contemplation"
(Alumni Survey 3).
"Contemplative is the opposite of memorize and
regurgitate. Information is taken in, digested and
integrated (lets not take this metaphor any further!)"
(Alumni Survey 5).
"It's working with integrating the intellect and
intuition or really taking what's being learned and
internalizing it. And then giving that back out. It's
engagement, engagement with the world. It's learning the
landscape or what happens and how one's mind manifests"
"It's not a weekend process. One of the students
after a while got a little bit exasperated. She said,
'Well what happens to you when you are sitting there?'
And I said, 'well this morning when we started sitting I
looked down at the floor in the art studio and I saw
that the floor hadn't been fixed yet. And it was still
roughly patched concrete and there was dirt and pieces
of linoleum glue stuck to it. I started getting mad
about why the floor wasn't done yet'" (Faculty 22).
"That the contemplation is more that you are
thinking about the things and the meditation is this of
bringing your mind into some kind of focus. It took us
some years to figure that out. What I mean by it really
has more to do with looking deeply into whatever the
situation is" (Faculty 28).
"When the mind is tamed and more flexible, then we
have a sense of awareness of a larger container, a
larger space of greater subtleties that are occurring
within the communicative process or with the larger
world in general" (Faculty 20).
"Different people you talk to will have different
ideas of what contemplative is. Without that outlook,
it's hard to stay at Naropa with our salaries and
demands that are also there" (Staff 19).
"I'm still trying to figure that out" (Staff 29).
"It's still kind of a mystery to me. But
contemplative education seems like it's not like we go
to class and the teacher says, 'Here are things that
will be on the test'" (Student 30).
"Stepping out of the endless rushing" (Student 31}.
"I'm not really sure (chuckles)" (Student 35).
The following four responses are separated out
because they represent a harsher perspective on
"Pretty unforgiving, that's not the word I am
looking for. Ruthless is a little strong. More self-
examining. Work as opposed to resting or relaxing."
(Alumnus 2 6) .
"Intense. The personal work that is elicited and
required by the program is very intense." (Alumni Survey
"Being challenged, confronted right down to my core
images and beliefs. How hard that was at times. How
growthful it was for me. I felt 'roto-tilled' at times
at Naropa. It was a relentless, relentless process. "
(Alumni Survey 6).
"I was completely terrified the whole time. Because
there was no escape. There was no escape at all. You
were up against yourself like this the whole time. It
was a real conflict for me because that was what I
wanted to do but yet I was so connected and this was so
vital a process that I would probably die. I would have
died without it at some level. My soul would have died
or whatever. It was just too important to run away from.
It was utterly terrifying. It had to do with relating to
fear and keep going toward it. And keep getting closer
and closer to what it is that's causing discomfort.
Creativity, wisdom, will come out of it" (Faculty 24).
Summary. In the written artifacts, contemplative
education refers to the joining of body and mind with
academic discipline. Contemplation of oneself has to do
with seeing oneself clearly.
Living in the present, however mundane that present
might be, is emphasized by respondents, but to those who
have more recently become a part of Naropa,
contemplation is not something with which they are as
familiar. Contemplative education is a non-traditional
approach to many alumni.
Four of the respondents mentioned a threatening
side of contemplation. It is important to note that none
of them found it negative, but did find it difficult.
This side of contemplation is not noted in the
All participants were comfortable talking about
contemplative education and contemplation itself, all
had clearly heard of it and knew that it was at least
said to be important at Naropa. In the artifacts
examined from the 1970's, the word contemplation is not
easily found, while "study", "meditation" and "action"
are used often. In the 1985-1987 course catalog (Naropa,
1985), it is prominent. This late appearance in the
artifacts is consistent with Faculty 28's statement that
it "took us some years to figure that out". Prior to
November 2001 it was easy to find reference to
contemplative education on the Naropa web site (Naropa,
2001c). On the new web site (Naropa, 2001d), it is more
difficult to find.
The intense and frightening contemplation that was
a part of some participant's experience at Naropa seems
to have given way to a gentler experience, still related
to inner work, but no longer as frightening.
"Shambhala Day" (Naropa, 2001b p.17) is a
celebration of an "ancient tradition that is rooted in
the longing we all have to be completely authentic and
to live in a society that cultivates our true expression
as human beings. This longing is the basis of our
education at Naropa" (Naropa, 2001b, p.17).
Shambhala was often discussed by participants,
sometimes after they discussed Buddhism. It is not
mentioned at any length in course catalogs and was
developed after Naropa started. According to the book
mentioned by several participants, Trungpa, Rinpoche
(Shambhala, 1984) first emphasized the Shambala teaching
in 1976. In his Foreword to the book, Trungpa, Rinpoche
states that "this book does not reveal any of the
secrets from the Buddhist tantric tradition of Shambhala
teachings"(p.19). A number of Shambala Centers now exist
throughout the United States.
The sample that follows is representative of
interview and survey statements that were coded to this
"He started formulating and presenting the Shambala
teachings I think around '78" (Alumnus 23).
"These are Trungpa-isms that interest me not at
all" (Alumni Survey 1).
"Shambhala training as the non-religious teaching
of the philosophy of Buddhism. Being a warrior, to me,
means striving to speak and understand truth. A very
hard discipline!" (Alumni Survey 3).
"Having absolute compassion, absolute honor. For
Naropa, I feel it was an unteachable Way" (Alumni Survey
"I see Shambhala as the westernized version of
Tibetan Buddhism. Many are able to easily absorb and
respect Trungpa's book Shambhala"(Alumni Survey 6).
"How Trungpa, Rinpoche put it is a Shambhala
warrior is a person who is not afraid to face their
state of mind. In other words, working with fear and
fearlessness. So it really starts on a level of right
here" (Faculty 24).
"Well you know the mythic image of Shambhala is
that it is a place where people are decent and brave and
"The Buddha, as the story goes, gave a set of
teachings for people to use in their everyday life to
become more mindful, more wakeful, and more
compassionate and to supposedly reach the same awakening
that a monk would reach in a monastery" (Staff 19).
"This is definitely a term that you will get
different answers for. For me, what it means is, not
even the ability, but the willingness to work on
oneself. The willingness to step out of one's self and
be there in the world, to step through one's fears.
There's a phrase there in the Shambala book, where it
talks about being beyond aggression. To be a warrior in
this sense, at least in the Shambhala sense, is to be
able to be in the world without being aggressive. In
this sense, warrior isn't somebody who is wearing armor
and carrying a saber and slashing, but someone who is
willing to just stand relatively naked in the
"It's a vision of an enlightened society" (Staff
"Buddhism that's kind of, what everyone says, it's
just really watered down for the Western mind" (Student
"It's about living fully and honestly, just really
sort of bringing truthfulness and your heart to
Summary. Shambhala was introduced to the West by
Trungpa, Rinpoche. There seems to be some minor
skepticism as to whether it originated with Trungpa,
Rinpoche, or was ancient wisdom rediscovered by him,
reflected in it being referred to as something
appropriate for Westerners who might not be able to
handle the rigor of Eastern Buddhism. Many responses
reflect the subtitle of the book, Shambhala, The Sacred
Path of the Warrior (1984) and refer to the Shambhala
Warrior as someone who is beyond aggression.
Shambala encompasses compassion and truth. Other
reflections of this concept include enlightenment, and
while it may be a Westernized version of Buddhism, at
least one respondent saw it as "A very hard discipline!"
(Alumni Survey 3). While it was not a new term for the
participants, most of the artifacts do not mention
Shambhala and what it represents, which includes
compassion as well as a desire to help others, is core
Summary of Central
Representative of statements from the artifacts
categorized as central and its subcategories of mission
and contemplative are those of the Mission Statement
presented at the beginning of the category of that name.
The metaphors used in the artifacts and by survey and
interview participants are consistent, in that they
reference inner work.
Contemplative education is described as that "which
balances the study of specific academic and artistic
fields with traditional practices for training in
awareness"(Naropa, 2001a, p.9). Allen Ginsberg is quoted
as saying "It's a question of knowing your mind. So the
discipline, in a sense, would be having a mind and
knowing it" (Naropa, 1976, p.41). Contemplative
practices ranging from T'ai Chi Ch'uan to Ikebana are
referred to in the 1985 course catalog (Naropa, 1985,
p. 7) .
The concept represented by contemplative appears in
many other categories and is included as central in part
because of the frequency with which.it appears. Those
who have been with Naropa the longest are most likely to
find the contemplative aspect intense, and even, in a
few cases, frightening. They also were more likely to
narrowly define it, within Buddhist origins, while
participants who are more recently or currently involved
with Naropa are more likely to accept as contemplative a
variety of approaches. All indicate something that
pertains to inner work.
Shambhala appears in the 2001 Student Field Guide
(Naropa, 2001b) as well as in the President's 2001
Letter (Cobb, 2001), but is not readily apparent in
Another central concept from the artifacts is
community, which is referenced in the Mission Statement.
Naropa is referred to as a distinct community "which
meets and interacts regularly with other communities and
organizations"(Naropa, 1977, p.6). The Mission Statement
refers to developing "those ideals and forms which lead
to an effective and gentle community of learners"
(Naropa, 2001a,p. 6). Survey and interview participants
do not refer to community as central to Naropa.
Also included in recent artifacts is reference to
the Board of Trustee's "broad diversity statement"
(Naropa, 1999, 2000, 2001a, p.10) and Naropa's
"diversity task force"( Naropa, 1999, 2000, 2001a,
p.10). Participants, when asked, were aware of these,
but did not bring them up nor pursue a discussion of
them they were mentioned. Central to the artifacts is
the current mission statement, which is consistent with
most of what participants found to be central.
Enduring, as defined in Chapter 1, "points to
features that exhibit some degree of sameness or
continuity over time" (Albert and Whetten, 1985, p.265).
The artifacts examined cite a Buddhist heritage, which
is incorporated into the current mission statement.
Trungpa, Rinpoche is very much alive in the earliest
artifacts and is presented as the founder in the most
recent. In 1985, contemplative education is prominently
mentioned as a part of Naropa, and in the most recent
course catalog (Naropa, 2001a), it is still presented,
although no longer on the front cover. Since at least
1985, Naropa itself is referred to as "A Contemplative
College"(Naropa, 1985, p. 3; 2001, p.2). In the
artifacts from the 1970's, Naropa's location, Boulder,
Colorado is mentioned as "unique" (Naropa, 1978) and in
the most recent (Naropa, 2001a) as "cosmopolitan".
Categories from this study that emerged and were
determined to be under the heading of central, were