Earlier this year, the In Trust Center and ModernThink LLC conducted a pilot survey project with seven theological schools to assess the schools’ institutional culture. Almost 250 employees of the seven schools, including faculty, staff, and administrators, took part in the survey, which measured 16 dimensions of organizational life including job satisfaction, perceived fairness of compensation and benefits, satisfaction with physical workspace, perceived effectiveness of policies, and perceptions about shared governance.

Jim Downey, vice president of planning and institutional effectiveness at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, involved his school in the pilot and was pleased with what he learned.

Downey says that ample research has shown that organizational culture has a deep impact on institutional health and that leaders often underestimate its importance. “You have to ask the questions, ‘What exactly is our culture? What are our values? What is important and not important to us?’” Downey says. “Cultural assessment is a way to get at that.”

Downey had been unsatisfied with some of the cultural assessment tools that he’d tried in the past, feeling that they didn’t fit the unique situation of his seminary. But he was happy to participate in the pilot program that the In Trust Center and ModernThink developed especially for theological schools. ModernThink, a Delaware consulting firm, has a long history of doing cultural assessment in higher education and collaborates with the Chronicle of Higher Education on the annual “Great Colleges to Work For” report. “What makes the ModernThink/In Trust Center pilot most appropriate is that there is a set of questions that get our unique world, particularly with regard to faculty and questions of governance,” Downey says. “There are also some targeted questions that are theological in nature but general enough that they apply across the spectrum of institutions.”

On November 15, the In Trust Center will host a webinar on cultural assessment. Rich Boyer, founding partner of ModernThink, will explain what cultural assessment is and how it measures components of institutional life. Jim Downey will take part in the webinar, giving his perspective as a participant in the 2018 pilot program. 

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