Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy

Department

Education Leadership, Management and Policy

Advisor

Martin J. Finkelstein, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David B. Reid, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard L. White, Ph.D.

Keywords

College student, career development, faculty role, advising, mentoring

Abstract

As chief architects of curriculum, faculty are largely responsible for student learning outcomes. Given the cost of higher education and the amount of debt students incur, higher education stakeholders want to know if higher education is worth the investment.

Student career preparedness is an important goal of higher education. While research has been dedicated to college student development, career decision-making, and student-faculty interaction from a student perspective, little is known about the faculty perspective and their role in student career preparedness in a specific articulated way.

In this study, the phenomenological perspective provided a framework for data collection and analysis. Using qualitative data gathered from 10 faculty and one career services administrator through surveys and in-depth, semi-structured interviews, this dissertation investigated the participants’ perceptions of the faculty role in student career preparedness, the ways in which they support undergraduate career preparedness in and outside of the classroom, and possible differences in perception and behavior detected by subgroups. Selected syllabi were examined for supporting factors and institutional websites were examined to determine the environmental conditions that can influence faculty behavior and provide messaging to stakeholders.

This study recognizes that students can acquire career preparedness through background contextual affordances, such as exposure to social and learning opportunities, and directly through learning experiences. Faculty can influence these through their interactions with students. This study identified environmental conditions, environmental response, social knowledge, self-knowledge, sociodemographic characteristics, and career influences on faculty behavior related to student career preparedness.

Through thorough data analysis several common themes emerged: (a) Faculty strongly agree that undergraduates need support and guidance in determining their career direction and agree that employment after college is a priority goal of higher education. Faculty feel they can influence student career preparedness through high-impact practices and assignments, advising and mentoring behavior, and connections to useful resources on and off campus. (b) Effectiveness of student–faculty relationships and potential outcomes is largely dependent on an understanding of shared responsibility that the institution, faculty, and most critically, the students must mutually grasp and enact, but effectiveness is also related to faculty disciplines, careers, backgrounds, and connections. (c)The most noteworthy differences among subgroups are related to the subtle but disparate behavior by faculty disciplines of professional track faculty vs. liberal arts and sciences track faculty, with occasions of overlap between these subgroup tracks. Faculty have an appreciation for first-generation student struggles, who might lack social and cultural capital, and especially by those faculty with their own first-generation experiences. Those faculty with longevity in their careers and life (ages 66–85) urge the importance of students to embrace an attitude of life-long learning that has served each of them well. (d) Faculty feel barriers to supporting student career preparedness include: lack of career-related knowledge by faculty; lack of faculty time; student academic deficits and distractions which impedes development of helpful relationships with faculty. Clear communication of the importance of shared roles in student career preparedness remains a barrier for institutional effectiveness. A comprehensive system of career preparedness is presented as a model for practice and policy improvement.

Available for download on Monday, June 01, 2020

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