Date of Award

January 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education, Health & Behavior Studies

First Advisor

Zarrina T. Azizova


This dissertation is about North Dakota’s political structures and culture spanning the past 30 years through a case study approach examines the modern identity of politics that derive meaning into how policies are decided upon, and ultimately, the dynamics of those policies for the state’s system of higher education. Individual interviews and narrative inquiry analysis of the participants’ perspectives shed light on the social and political context in which key policy influencers play their role in the direction of policy deliberation and the ways that these policies influence decisions and lawmaking for the state. Agenda setting theory informs a conceptual framework for the research. A case study about policy decisions and how they are influenced is examined within the timeframe between 1990 and 2020. Findings of the case study through interviews and narrative stories provide the context to understanding the perceptions of policy makers in North Dakota and the multi-faceted influences they have on specific policies and governmental decisions that impact higher education in the state. The discussions inform and help understand how and why policy decisions were made from a firsthand perspective. The implications of this research inform the state’s higher education system and the students it serves, as well contextualize the pervading policies that have impacted the system over the course of 30 years.