Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Higher Ed/Community College Ed

Major Professor

Vasti Torres, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amber D. Dumford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janet Richards, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William H. Young III, Ed.D.


artistic self, high impact practices, creativity, social identities, educational practices


In western societies, the persona of the artist has largely been associated with prevailing myths of the creative individual including the artist as genius and outsider. In my inquiry I endeavored to understand what it means to be an artist from the perspective of budding “creatives”. In this study I explored the process of becoming an artist that is how college students construct and navigate an artistic self (selves), and the factors that influenced this process. My purpose in this multiple text narrative inquiry was to discover how undergraduate art majors construct and navigate their artistic identity/identities, particularly while engaged in an artistic undergraduate research (UR) experience. I selected to explore students engaged in an undergraduate research project as a way to understand the process of artistic becoming within a unique educational practice, and to determine the role of creativity within this process.

My study involved students who participated in an undergraduate research scholarship program developed by the Office for Undergraduate Research at a large research university in the southeast of the United States. Ten undergraduate art majors participated in this study. Data included in-depth interviews, and participant writings in the form of “artist” reflective journal entries (which included both written and visual text), and a final self-reflection essay. I analyzed the interview data through a holistic- content approach (Lieblich et al., 1998). I identified specific themes in order to understand the complex, “whole” individual, which assisted me in understanding participant “artistic selves”, and how creativity played a role in this process. I analyzed participant art products using methods adapted from Riessman (2008) and Keats (2009). Three key findings emerged from my inquiry. First, for the majority of participants, the construction of artistic identity/identities involved a significant evolution in their meaning making structures. Second, the notion of “doing” for oneself through research was profound for most individuals, which resulted in a stronger sense of artistic identity/identities. The third major finding was how participants weaved their artistic identity/identities through creativity. Implications of my research underscore the need for more robust institutional support and resources to assist emerging artists with developing career skills, creating supportive environments for art majors from a variety of backgrounds to help them succeed and thrive in college, the design and implementation of additional educational practices in the arts that promote self-authorship, and the expansion of UR activities within the arts.