An unexpected academic department closure can be deeply unsettling to many stakeholders. Department closure is typically intended to be a cost-saving measure; however, department closure can be a difficult, time-consuming process with unexpected consequences. This study takes a hermeneutical phenomenological approach to explore the impact of the closure of an academic department. Participants were enrolled in one of the department’s academic programs at the time of the closure announcement and during data collection. Results indicated that participants sanctified the department, a process in which persons instill an object or aspect of their lives with spiritual significance (Pargament, Magyar, Benore, & Mahoney, 2005). The closure prompted participants to experience a cosmology episode in which a sudden shift in worldview occurred, and participants indicated being in the sense-losing stage where meaning had not yet been made. The findings of this study can serve as a model for leadership at all levels who are considering program closures, with particular attention on how to assist students.
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Walsh, D. D., Richardson, K. D., Tylsova, M., Guri, W., Brown, I. T., & O'Grady, K. (2021). The Death of an Academic Department: Sense-losing and Sacred Loss. Journal of Catholic Education. https://doi.org/10.15365/joce.2401022021