Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

McNabb, Scott

Second Advisor

Wanat, Carolyn

First Committee Member

McNabb, Scott

Second Committee Member

Wanat, Carolyn

Third Committee Member

Haack, Marcus

Fourth Committee Member

Bills, David

Fifth Committee Member

Fehn, Bruce


This study investigated a little known topic: the experiences of working-class, white male, professors, who have attained tenure. Academics who have immigrated from working class backgrounds have reported experiences of navigating culturally confusing interactions within their professional settings, even years after their class migrations. Working-class, white, male, tenured academics were selected for the present study in order to ascertain findings intended to contribute to understandings of their pre-tenure experiences, and strategies that they believed were most significant for tenure attainment. Ethnographic research methods were employed in this study. Research questions guiding the study were: "What do first-generation, white male college professors identify as the key factors which helped them achieve tenure?" and, "To what extent did their class background help or hinder the process?" The data analysis chapter divides participants' experiences into three themes; Theme 1 addresses some of the formal and informal social contexts of the tenure process. Themes 2 and 3 focus on the participants' psychological and social challenges and successes that were also part of the process. This study analyzed data regarding social contexts that participants believed were relevant to their tenure attainment. Participants experienced academic culture in ways connected to important issues of diversity and exclusion found in the literature on the experiences of other, more traditionally recognized marginalized groups in American higher education. Seemingly routine work related events often transpired according to unwritten social rules informed by academic culture. Most participants reported significant cultural outsider experiences, and although they experienced cultural based success challenges, they gradually developed strategies that incorporated working-class background experiences into their pre-tenure period experiences in ways that they believed constituted unique professional strengths. Findings were generalized in four statements: most participants experienced social class-related struggles toward gaining tenure attainment; most participants had entered academia without adequate cultural knowledge; most participants experienced academic work and social related practices as contentious with their working-class sensibilities; and most participants gradually developed internal truces between their past and present cultural orientations toward their eventual goal of tenure attainment. Directions for future study and concluding thoughts are included.


Academic Culture, Academics, Academic Tenure, Higher Education, Social Class, Working Class


vii, 112 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 96-112).


Copyright 2012 Galen Charles Reddin