Navigating by the North Star: Bridging the Pedagogical Gap Between Content and Structure in Higher Education


  • Kendall Dunnigan New College of California


higher education, sociology of education, democracy, governance, organizational systems


Numerous institutions of higher education throughout the United States are dedicated to providing education that seeks as its goal a more socially just and ecologically sustainable world. Progressive curricula challenging ecological and human exploitation and promoting alternatives is being taught in classes throughout the nation. However, a gap exists between curricula and management in most educational institutions that diminish the teaching goals. Administrative and governance structures to which academic programs are tied for students services and overall college functions lag behind the progressive thinking in classrooms and often lack systems and structures that embody the mission of the institution. Administrative and governance systems can do more to support academic goals directly in terms of effective, mission-based management as well as indirectly by modeling the progressive society envisioned in classrooms in the administrative and governance systems and, thus, extend the learning of the classroom to an integrated totality of the college experience. A sociologist at heart, Mahatma Gandhi advocated, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The purpose of this paper is: 1) to analyze the hidden socializing impacts of organizational systems and structures in formal education on students; 2) to place the purpose of modern education into an ecological and social context; and, 3) to promote ecological and community based organizational systems that may serve in to bridge the gap between teaching and governing in higher education. I have been working for seven years with a group of committed staff and faculty at New College’s North Bay Campus (NBC) to “bridge the gap” and create an organization that embodies its mission in every aspect of the organization from curricular content to toilet bowl cleaners. Examples of the work that has been implemented at New College will be given at the end of the paper. I hope that the governance work being done at the NBC will inspire other progressive institutions of higher education (and perhaps other institutions as well) to work toward diminishing the gap between their mission and operating structures in order to strengthen the impact of their educational goals.

Author Biography

Kendall Dunnigan, New College of California

Director and Faculty New College of California Department of Culture, Ecology, and Sustainble Community



How to Cite

Dunnigan, K. (2006). Navigating by the North Star: Bridging the Pedagogical Gap Between Content and Structure in Higher Education. Proceedings of the 50th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2006, Sonoma, CA, USA. Retrieved from



Designing Educational Systems