Access Through the Ages at an Elite Boarding School
Carney, Samantha Jo. “Access Through the Ages at an Elite Boarding School”, Boston College, 2012. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/2768.
This study is about access for low-income students at an elite boarding school. As "feeder schools" to elite colleges and universities, elite boarding schools play a significant role in determining which students will be in the upper class in America; however, little is known about the history of low-income students at these schools. The purpose of this study is to examine the history of access at one elite boarding school through the frameworks of organizational saga and institutional theory to enhance understanding of how the concepts of access and opportunity at elite institutions have developed over time. Employing a historical, organizational case study approach, this study uses archival research, document review, and interviews with school leaders to construct a developmental history of Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts. Findings from data collection and analysis revealed a profound organizational saga oriented towards access that has guided Phillips Academy through its development. Phillips Academy's powerful organizational saga of access is embraced by senior leaders, faculty, and alumni, and has deepened their commitment to the historical traditions of the institution. This organizational saga allowed the school to survive and thrive, despite major changes in its organizational field over the last century. By fostering deep commitment among multiple actors throughout the institution's history, Phillips Academy's organizational saga has become a dominant influence in its organizational decision-making. This research extends Burton Clark's (1970) concept of organizational saga to the concept of organizational fields, and explores the interaction of a strong organizational saga with an institution's organizational field. It contributes to the literature on elite boarding schools, and enriches that of elite colleges and universities by better understanding their historic "feeder schools." It also contributes to our understanding of social production, reproduction, and mobility in the United States. Implications for theory and elite boarding schools, colleges, and universities are discussed, along with calls for further research.