The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Higher Education Administration: Ed.D.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Jennifer Jones

Second Advisor

Matthew Vorell

Third Advisor

Rachel Friedensen

Fourth Advisor

Missy Majerus

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

adjunct faculty, identity, photo elicitation, metaphor, contingent faculty, part-time faculty


Adjunct faculty are an integral part of the higher education structure, allowing community college leadership to meet the instructional and financial needs on their campuses. Community colleges rely heavily on adjunct faculty to meet the changing needs of student enrollment at a low cost, with no long-term commitment to future employment. Research paying attention to the increased utilization of adjunct faculty in the community college setting has focused on topics including job satisfaction, student outcomes, and studies comparing part-time faculty and full-time faculty in advancement opportunities. This study was conducted to provide an opportunity for adjunct faculty members in the community college setting to provide insight into their identity.

Using the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET) to guide the interview process, this qualitative study of eight temporary part-time faculty in the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department at one Minnesota community college focused on the language used to describe identity. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the aspects contributing to the development of academic identity in adjunct faculty. By exploring language used during the interview, constructs of identity were identified and defined, providing an understanding of the components that represent the overall identity of the adjunct faculty member. These themes of identity were analyzed along with the details shared during the interview to establish construct linkages and linkage changes, which indicate how the various constructs of identity impact each other. Symbolic interactionism and Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) served as the conceptual frameworks for this study.

Results of this study revealed four themes of identity representing the adjunct faculty experience: work assignment, student success, love for learning and teaching, and colleague interactions. These themes are made up of 16 different constructs, or themes representing identity. The majority of constructs representing identity are positive constructs, reinforcing the love of teaching. The constructs of the unpredictable work schedule and varying income connected to the adjunct faculty role were reported as negative contributors participants indicated an overall positive response to the role. In addition to the themes of identity that surfaced through the ZMET, the desire to teach in their field and the goal to work with students were selected as the top two motivational factors for the decision to be an adjunct faculty member. This insight into the identity of the adjunct faculty member will be used to present suggestions for administrators who support them.



This project is dedicated to all who have inspired my lifelong passion for learning, so I can continue to learn and inspire others. Completing this dissertation was a team effort, led by my amazing partner and supporter, Joel. I hope my efforts to complete this study have shown our kids that having a goal is worth the work, and that a bit of work each day can get you there. Thank you to my parents who believed in me first, and to everyone else who supported me along the way. I express my sincere appreciation to the participants of this study for trusting me with their experiences and time. Finally, I dedicate this to adjunct faculty who deserve a voice and to be proud of their identity.


Thank you to my dissertation committee for their support, guidance, and encouragement throughout the process of completing this project. To my advisor, Dr. Jennifer Jones: your radiant and encouraging spirit is one of the biggest reasons I will smile when I reflect upon my growth throughout this project. Thank you, for always knowing just what to say to get me to the next step. To Dr. Matt Vorell: I appreciate the time, expertise, and support you have shared with me as you have trained me in the field of qualitative research, specifically, the ZMET. It has been great to have a true mentor throughout the doctoral experience. To Dr. Rachel Friedensen: Your attention to detail and keen knowledge of current research trends and conversations has inspired me to become more engaged in the research field. To Dr. Missy Majerus: You agreed to support a higher education colleague by participating in this project and I am so grateful. Your voice of reason and connection to the community college population has been appreciated.

Thank you, Dr. Steven McCullar, for teaching me how to be a graduate student and a higher education professional every day, not just during class. Thank you to Dr. Christine Imbra, for your inspiration, your leadership, and the fabulous work you did to create a lifelong memory of education abroad in Macerata, Italy. Thank you to Holly Evers, who hired me as a graduate assistant (GA) on campus and helped me to find my doctoral student routine. Thank you, Michele Braun-Heurung, for your support and guidance while working as a GA. To my fellow graduate assistants, classmates, and Cohort 10 members, it is the rich and diverse interactions I have had with you that I will treasure. Thank you for making my doctoral student experience meaningful.



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