Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Ann M. Gansemer-Topf


This study examines the Wakonse Conference on Teaching and Learning through an organizational development lens. It explores why the conference was created and why it has continued for 24 years. Using this phenomenological case study provides insight into both the organizational elements involved in this conference, but also how the roles of individuals have contributed to the persistence of this conference.

The three founders who have been active with Wakonse from since its inception along with five other participants who have attended the conference for at least four years were interviewed. Through interviews with the conference founders and long-term participants, issues related to leadership, the value of teaching and learning and isolation in academe were explored. This study highlights the importance of place, reflection and community in attending to the holistic need of faculty and staff working in higher education. These interviews served as the primary data source for this study, though other documentation and observation as well as reflexive journaling contributed, as well.

This conference emerged from the passions of the founders and was inspired by their connection to a specific location. Their dedication to maintaining a connection with the camp where the conference evolved into an annual conference: Wakonse. This conference serves to bring together faculty and staff in higher education who are passionate about undergraduate students and teaching. These passions have resonated with faculty and staff across the country who have not found communities of teaching and safe spaces for sharing their passions for undergraduate students at their institutions.

This study has implications not only for the Wakonse conference, but across and beyond higher education. Organizations in a variety of settings can benefit from the issues related to community, holistic attention to members, reflection, time and space. Each of these factors contributed to the positive Wakonse experiences of the participants in this study. Similarly, these themes have implications for a variety of other organizations.


Copyright Owner

Michelle Lea Boettcher



File Format


File Size

333 pages