Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Patricia T. Mitchell

Second Advisor

Betty Taylor

Third Advisor

Darrick Smith


In the current economic climate of decreased utilitarian and extrinsic rewards, public higher education organizations are challenged to identify low-cost yet satisfying ways to motivate their employees. Previous researchers suggested that the motivation of public employees is a significant aspect of job satisfaction and job choice, attendance, retention, and performance, all of which impact organizational effectiveness. An understanding of what aspects of the organization, its values, and its mission are appealing to employees provides the organization with insight into how best to design work to be meaningful and rewarding; therefore, public-employee motivation should garner the attention of recruiters, managers, and organizations.

This study examined public service motivation (PSM) to determine if it differed among the staff in the three units of the Division of Student Affairs in a large, public university. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to analyze differences in PSM among the three work units: differences in PSM attributable to demographics; factors that influenced employment attraction, selection, and retention decisions; and the extent to which organizational socialization fostered PSM.

Data were collected through the administration of a survey to the sample population. In addition to the 24 items on Perry's PSM instrument, open-ended and multiple choice questions were used to obtain information related to employee attraction, selection, and retention decisions and organizational socialization.

The results of the study did not demonstrate a difference in PSM of organizational units, nor did it demonstrate a difference in PSM attributable to demographics or employee socialization. The themes identified in employee attraction, selection, and retention suggested that, whereas staff are drawn to their positions for practical reasons, the public-service benefits of their positions became more evident and more appreciated over time.

Although monetary bonuses, such as compensation and benefits, are not always feasible or sustainable, the data collected in this study suggested that an investment in training opportunities, varied work content, and activities that promote a sense of affiliation with the institution contribute to staff motivation and support the employee-retention efforts of the organization.