Date of Award

6-12-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Philo A. Hutcheson, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Donna Breault, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Susan Talburt, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Benjamin Baez, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Elaine Manglitz, Ph.D.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to research the experiences of female academicians in traditional liberal arts academic disciplines at one institution. The challenges of being a female academician are revealed in statistical data about faculty rank, tenure, and salaries as well as in descriptive accounts of the environment that women encounter in the higher education institutions. However, the intersection of women and the academic disciplines rooted in the liberal arts tradition is a neglected arena of investigation. This research involved a series of qualitative in-depth interviews with three women representing biology, psychology, and English at a small public college and began as an examination of their experiences in these academic disciplines. Consistent with qualitative research, the themes that emerged from the interviews did not highlight the original research focus. Rather, the women discussed their lives as teachers as a priority over their lives in the disciplines. Through the interviews, the women revealed that their paths into their disciplines began when they were children, a finding not addressed in current literature. Their stories also reveal commonalities in their professional socializations, their quests to have satisfying personal and professional lives, and the impact of relationships on the formation of their academic and professional identities. As each woman fell in love with her discipline during graduate school, she also discovered teaching as her greater affection. In the context of agency and strength, rather than educational tracking or cultural pressure, they found conditions of possibility in academic careers primarily focused on teaching. The results of this research suggest alternatives to some assumptions prevalent in current literature, including assumptions about when the direction of a career path begins and assumptions that women accept teaching-focused careers through systemic influences. The experiences of these women highlight the vital role of personal agency and meaningful interpersonal connections in the careers of women in academia.

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