Master of Arts in Higher Education Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Todd Ream

Second Advisor

Tim Herrmann

Third Advisor

Stephen Bedi


This study explored both the history and current practices of the Calvin College philosophy department with the intention of forming an assessment of a successful, reputable academic department. The purpose of the study was to determine what characteristics of this department’s culture could be adapted and implemented to enrich other academic departments across varying disciplines and institutional types. To capture the essence of this productive departmental culture, the researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with 25 participants connected to the department; these participants included current students, past and present faculty, program assistants, a former provost, and a local educational historian. Results indicated strong influences from the departmental mission, the Christian Reformed faith tradition, and faculty loyalty to the institution and department; the equal pursuit of teaching and scholarship; the value of the weekly peer-review tradition called Colloquium; the critical role of rapport among faculty, students, and department chair; and the impact of diversity in faculty scholarship on the department learning community. Despite the limits of studying one department within a single institution, other academic departments may significantly benefit from thoughtful consideration, adaptation, and implementation of the results.