Imagery of Regent people and campus

Dissertation Abstract

A Case Study of the Development of Organizational Trust
in a Multicultural University

Bonnie J. Straight
Regent University

This case study focused on how factors such as organizational context, cultural differences, and leadership approaches influence the process of developing trust between a multicultural organization and its various communities of stakeholders. Zucker's (1986) model of trust production (characteristic-based, process-based, and institutional-based) provided the framework for studying the organization's trust development. The case situation studied provided a unique opportunity to observe a multicultural organization (Lithuania Christian College (LCC)), the first of its kind in the context (post-soviet Lithuania), over a span of time from the development of its vision and concept through its recognition as a viable, stable organization. The primary culture groups represented in the organization include North Americans (from Canada and the United States) and Lithuanian citizens of Lithuanian and Russian ethnic backgrounds. Little information was found that described the Lithuanian culture in terms of comparable dimensions and less that described Russian immigrants to Lithuania. Data for the study included in-depth interviews, published first-person reflections of participants in the LCC story, archival documents, participant observation, and surveys of LCC members using Hofstede's Values Survey Module (1994). The turbulent environment provided an opportunity to implement a compelling, culturally relevant vision. Lithuanian perceptions of North Americans both impeded and facilitated trust development. Process-based trust between LCC and various stakeholders developed through personal relationships, particularly between LCC leaders and influential individuals in external stakeholder organizations and between faculty/staff and students. Institutional-based trust developed when appropriate institutional structures were present.