Navigating Multiple Liminalities: An Exploration of How First-Year Faculty Construct Relationships of Support

by Meredith H Myers

Institution: Case Western Reserve University
Department: Organizational Behavior
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: Organizational Behavior; first-year faculty, early career faculty, liminality, support, career transition, developmental networks, proactive socialization, gender, virtual card sort
Record ID: 2057886
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=case1419265634


Liminality is the experience of transitioning within the social structure of any culture. People experiencing liminality are seen as “in between” traditionally established roles and as crossing a threshold, or as separating from their previous social categories and trying to integrate themselves into the new. This study explores how first-year faculty (FYF) construct relationships of support to foster successful career transitions. The study participants are all FYF in the field of organizational behavior and on tenure tracks in institutions highly regarded for their scholarship. Using a grounded theory analysis of semi-structured interviews, I have surfaced a theory that key relationships of FYF support might serve a primary function of helping the FYF to manage the challenges inherent in navigating the multiple liminalities of their career transitions. Key contributions of this study include a more nuanced conceptualization of liminality in academic careers and in career transitions more generally, as well as a perspective on how gender dynamics play out in the FYF transition. First, the FYF experience can be understood as comprising multiple and simultaneous liminal stages where individuals transition in: trying to achieve tenure, being a newcomer to a new organization, and settling into new communities outside of the professional context (including new locations, local relationships, family structures, etc.). This study further extends the notion of liminality by suggesting that FYF indeed are trying to “move forward” and “beyond” their current career thresholds while simultaneously maintaining, evolving, and integrating former relationships of support as a crucial means of constructing healthy and successful careers. Implications are discussed in relation to developmental networks, proactive socialization, and the role of gender in creating relationships that support success in transition.