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Aesthetics can be the core of organizational identity as an inviting style can motivate individuals to work together and satisfy their needs for belonging and identity. Universities are special organizations as they bring thousands of individuals together across a broad time span, provide space for individuals to blend their ideas, and spread graduates to the world with further individual influences. Conceptualizing universities as organizational actors on the higher education stage, we interview university managers to explore the relationship between aesthetics and representations of organizational identity. We ask managers to point out the symbols and metaphors that are aesthetic demonstrations of their organizational identity, and to elaborate the ways they communicate their organizational vision. We also ask them to characterize their university using aesthetic categories from the literature. While most managers believe “graceful” is the category that best captures the essence of their organizations, there is diversity with respect to subject, genre, and style in how they choose to express this quality. The managers also report that they mainly employ conventional channels such as social or mass media to communicate their organizational identity. Overall, although managers’ answers indicate isomorphism in some organizational practices, we discover a refreshing amount of heterogeneity with respect to organizational aesthetics in universities.



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