Boundary-Spanner Role Conflict in Public Urban Universities

Joseph Gauntner, Catherine A. Hansman

Abstract


It is common for universities that seek community partnerships to employ full-time staff, formally sanctioned as boundary spanners, to develop and manage such partnerships. These staff are frequently administrative or allied staff rather than tenure-track faculty or academic unit administrators. Given the multiple interests of universities and their community partners, it seems likely that boundary spanners attempting to design mutually beneficial relationships will experience role conflict as they seek to align diverse community and institutional agendas. This qualitative study explored the experience of role conflict as reported by university staff boundary spanners. This study found that role conflict was an integral part of the boundary spanner role and that boundary spanners exhibited two responses to role conflict: formative responses, directed toward continuing to seek mutual benefit, and adaptive responses, wherein mutual benefit was not pursued. External factors impacting role conflict were also identified.


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