Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Striving to breathe and balance on the brink: Spirituality in the lives of new faculty in transition
by Riley, Ann T., Ph.D., The University of Oklahoma, 2010, 272; 3403010
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this study was to increase an understanding of spirituality’s place in the holistic adult adjustment of new faculty members during their transitional years at a public research university. Many have been concerned about the sense of fragmentation experienced in the academy and have called for cultural reforms of the conditions that encourage both faculty and students to act as if their personal spirituality is irrelevant. The academy has given little attention to the holistic development of faculty and their work/life integration, with even less of an acknowledgment to spirituality in adult development; such that, higher education has little information about how to holistically support new professoriate who are especially vulnerable. The research questions have explored the importance of spirituality during new faculty members’ personal and professional adjustment, their experiences that inhibited and/or promoted their spiritual development, and the ways that the university might support their holistic development.

The theoretical framework of adult development, adult learning, and existential theories oriented and infused both the study design and qualitative methodology approach that set the stage for exploring the place of spirituality from the lived experience of these new faculty members during transition at a southwestern secular university. Data were collected from two reflective interviews with eighteen participants and a collective group, and then analyzed using guidelines from interpretivism for narrative thematic coding and immersion into the phenomenological data.

In striving for successful adjustment during transition, spirituality was found to be an essential element in new faculty members’ efforts to achieve balance in their lives and findings were presented across three major themes, which, in turn, addressed the research questions. Based on their most frequent topics, the themes were: spirituality in reference to God, meaning and purpose; spirituality through connection and community; and spirituality in the service of identity and self. Spirituality was found, as expressed through their metaphors, emotions, and relationships, to be a resource that served their identity and integrity, as well as, work/life integration. The culture and climate of the academic environment were also found to impact their spirituality development.

Implications and recommendations from this study suggest that incorporating spirituality into academic programs and practices may aid new faculty members in their functional adjustment and enhance their work/life integration; and in addition, specific ways for how to support the spiritual development of new faculty are offered. Regarding holistic development and the potential systemic impact of new faculty needs on the institution and the system of higher education overall, the aim of integrating spirituality could be nothing less than transformational for both new faculty members, who may be striving for successful adjustment but precariously balancing on the brink of transition, and for higher education, as new faculty attempt to breathe new life into the academy.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Karpiak, Irene E.
Commitee: Irvine, Jill, Noley, Grayson, Rager, Kathleen B., Weber, Jerome
School: The University of Oklahoma
Department: Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
School Location: United States -- Oklahoma
Source: DAI-A 71/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Adult education, Higher education
Keywords: Adult development, Career development, Faculty development, Holistic development, New faculty, Spirituality
Publication Number: 3403010
ISBN: 978-1-109-76008-8
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