- This dissertation examines the phenomenon of the growing ranks of contingent faculty in higher education from the perspective of the leaders of five elite adult and continuing education and professional studies institutions in the United States. Existing research reports two-thirds of all post-secondary instructors are now non-tenured or off-tenure track faculty, commonly referred to as contingent faculty. Yet, few colleges and universities have evolved their faculty work environments to respond to the challenges posed by the use of non-tenure track faculty. While there is significant literature about contingent faculty from the perspective of non-tenured faculty and their proponents, little or no literature explores this phenomenon from the perspective of the people most responsible for establishing contingent faculty work environments, the institutional leadership. Therefore, this qualitative research study applied interpretative phenomenological analysis focused on the beliefs of these institutional leaders about contingent faculty at their institutions to increase understanding of this phenomenon and give rise to questions that may help bridge the information gap to make greater meaning of this change. The primary question guiding this study asks what do institutional leaders believe about contingent faculty culture in higher education today? This study uses the theoretical framework of social constructionism to reveal the beliefs, understandings, insights, guidelines, and self-perceptions found in the social discourse of these institutional leaders to reveal how beliefs influence the establishment of contingent faculty identity, community, and culture at their institutions. Findings from this study suggest that by hiring discipline-specific professionals as scholar practitioners, by establishing relationships that are respectful and rewarding for faculty, and by embracing a culture that emphasizes teaching, discipline-specific professional relevance, and a community of scholar practitioners, it may possible to avoid the issues causing concern in the existing literature about the use of contingent faculty. These findings indicate that the leaders participating in this study embody a tangible allegiance to the core academic missions of their colleges by creating contingent faculty work environments from the context of what these leaders believe is necessary to meet the unique needs and expectations of their adult learning and professional studies students. Without such evidence, higher education may continue down the path of trial and error without the benefit of the lived experiences and experiential perspectives of expert leaders who have gone before them and are able to shed light on the intended and unintended consequences of the evolving contingent faculty phenomenon. Expand / collapse toggle
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