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Robinson, Georgeanna (2010) IDENTITY WORK AND SENSEMAKING BY FACULTY APPROACHING TENURE. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In recent years, federal grants for biomedical research have become increasingly difficult to secure, yet remain important for receipt of tenure in the biomedical sciences at research-intensive institutions. This study examines how pre-tenure biomedical faculty in a top research university cope with the threat of tenure denial that is due, in part, to the current NIH economy. It specifically focuses on the effect this experience may have on professional identities. Ten lower-funded and eight higher-funded faculty were interviewed about their professional identity, their experiences approaching tenure, and institutional support. The majority of the participants had strong professional identities as academic researchers. There was a clear sense among the majority that being funded is more important than receiving tenure. Unmet expectations existed regarding the nature of science and faculty work, academic freedom, independence, and the intense focus on funding. Several faculty described episodes of identity work. Some made conscious efforts to separate their professional and personal identities and another tried to integrate the two. Faculty used preventive identity work to inhibit future identity chasms and to cope with potential identity threats. Four types of professional identity work were displayed: reframing the nature of professional work, reframing the approach to work, reconceptualizing the professional self, and renegotiating the relationship of self to professional work. Faculty participants understood professional success in their institutional environment to mean receipt of biomedical research grants from the federal government. They exhibited a lack of clarity regarding institutional expectations for tenure, and acknowledged that department chairs and mentors can help both in this regard and with developing a sense of community and fit. This research sheds light on the pressures experienced by those who may find cures for a plethora of public health issues in the future. Practical suggestions are provided to help medical school administrators wishing to support and enhance the productivity and comfort of junior faculty.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Robinson, Georgeannagwrobins@pitt.eduGWROBINS
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWeidman, John Cweidman@pitt.eduWEIDMAN
Committee MemberHouten, Bennett Vanvanhoutenb@upmc.eduBEV15
Committee MemberFerketish, B. Jeanferkjean@pitt.eduFERKJEAN
Committee MemberGunzenhauser, Michael Gmgunzen@pitt.eduMGUNZEN
Date: 8 December 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 21 July 2010
Approval Date: 8 December 2010
Submission Date: 27 July 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Biomedical scientists; NIH funding; Tenure; Faculty; Identity work; Sensemaking
Other ID:, etd-07272010-164923
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:54
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2016 14:36


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