Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Johanna S. Hunsaker, PhD; Cheryl A. Getz, EdD; Patricia Geist-Martin, PhD


academe, assistant professors, complicated discursive structures, communication, gender, Leadership studies, women


Women in academe often become entangled in an intricate equation of sensemaking as they work to balance the professional demands of teaching, research, and service, while at the same time learning the political and moral meanings of being a scholar. Structuration theory offers avenues for closely examining communicative strategies women utilize to navigate their roles as assistant professors. Through intensive interviews with seven female assistant professors this research investigates their process of wresting and arresting sense of the complicated roles, rules, and structures in academe. Analysis of interview data reveals the multiple discourses that frame organizational practices that facilitate and constrain these women's lives. Focusing on their patterned discourse led to the discovery and generation of three discursive structures women utilize in their sensemaking practices: the involute, refractor, and translate. The stories presented show how the involute, refractor, and translate function as opportunities for beneficial, detrimental, knowledgeable, unacknowledged, transforming, conscious, and even, unconscious communication practices. The movement of each discursive structure indicates the women's struggle to word their worlds as defensive resistances to communication that marginalizes, undermines, and dismisses their contributions. At the same time, each discursive structure represents the ways the women construct discourse to celebrate, reform, and rediscover who they can become and want to become in their academic work. The theoretical and practical implications of this research offer opportunity for mindfulness, restoration, and transformation.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access