Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Arthur P. Bochner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eric M. Eisenberg, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Charles Guignon, Ph.D.


academic capitalism, discourse, ethnography, Foucault, identity, interactive interview, storytelling, strategic ambiguity, Weick


I examined what brand new Ph.D.s in Communication experience when they start their first, entry-level, tenure-track assistant professor position at a new university. Through the lens of scocial construction, I review vocational and organizational socialization, individual agency by newcomers, academic socialization processes, and the concept of the academic career in the current climate of university change and transformation. Then, I present the method of research, including the population and sampling method, and rationales for utilizing a narrative approach, interactive interviewing, and autoethnographic writing. After presenting the participants' narratives, I revisit both within- and between-case issues, beginning with socialization from the "bottom-up" lived experiences of the new faculty.

The universities socialized these new professors through individual socialization processes. To lessen their uncertainty in their new place of work, the faculty members utilized seven individualized tactics to lessen ambiguity. Collectively, the new assistant professors saw the organizationally provided orientations and mentoring processes as inadequate. The loss of graduate school cohort necessitates the development of a new cohort with peers for new faculty development, despite the modern isolationist definition of the academic "subject." The new communication faculty generally found teaching to be an activity of stabilization within the new equivocal university environment, despite the supposed unpreparedness of new faculty.

I discuss the interrelated use of strategically ambiguous communication, power, and the disciplining of the self and how they relate to the tenure process. I examine how the discourses of academic capitalism impact the daily lives and decision-making of new faculty, including compromised research agendas and publication production. I interrogate the pursuit of prestige by higher educational institutions and the manner in which this pursuit adds additional pressure and stressors on new professors. Finally, I consider how the short-term narrative of "getting tenure" truncates the canonical narrative of the academic career, and legitimizes the outsider-within category of the new faculty members.