Perceptions of the professoriate: Anticipatory socialization of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Vincent Tinto


Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Programs, Professoriate, Socialization, Undergraduate, Underrepresented

Subject Categories

Education | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education


This qualitative study explored the perceptions of academic culture and faculty life of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups who aspired to the professoriate. This research examined how seventeen students participating in Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate or Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaurate Achievement Programs understood and experienced academic life, how they came to see themselves as prospective faculty members, and how they interpreted and negotiated perceived norms of the academy. Interviews, participant observation, and document analysis provided data for the study.

All the students participating in this study articulated an interest in being faculty members in higher education; however, only two aspired to traditional, tenure-track faculty positions. Others envisioned faculty work as something to do in addition to other professional work, after other careers, or in retirement. I examine the implications of their understanding of and plans for academic work.

The study also explored how participants developed an interest in and commitment to academic life in the course of exploring their academic identities and career plans. In aspiring to the professoriate, participants believed that they could create changes in the curriculum and cultures of the academy, and these changes would be shaped by their life experiences and multiple social perspectives.

Participants' saw diversity, meritocracy, and politics as salient features of academic culture. They challenged ideas of diversity and meritocracy that present these values as discrete, and often competing, norms. They discussed how merit, diversity and politics function together in academic cultures that espouse meritocracy but are nested in broader societal and institutional environments characterized by discrimination and bias. They also described strategies of "separating the personal" as ways to navigate academic environments.

Those who craft academic careers must reconcile anticipated contributions, benefits, and challenges related to the work with personal interested and commitments. The findings of this study inform theoretical understandings of such academic integration by analyzing the complexity and variety of anticipatory socialization experiences. With a better understanding of the experiences and perceptions of prospective faculty, members of the academic community can be more intentional, explicit, and equitable in socializing diverse groups of students to the professoriate.


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