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Exploring the Experiences of Women Adjunct Faculty: A Phenomenology

Emily L Cross, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This qualitative phenomenological study was designed to give an in-depth understanding of the lived experiences of women adjunct faculty working at a mid-sized community college in California. A review of literature surrounding adjunct faculty, community colleges, and women in higher education found a gap in the exploration and discussion of several subpopulations of faculty-- that of adjunct faculty and that of the experiences of women adjunct faculty. This study was designed a preliminary investigation toward creating greater understanding of women in the adjunct faculty position at community colleges. Convenience sampling methodology was applied to target women adjunct faculty at a California community college. Potential subjects were invited to participate based on their willingness to participate, gender, and tenure working as an adjunct faculty instructor. The use of a phenomenological tradition allowed participants to share their experiences in narrative form, leading to a better understanding of their lived experiences as women adjunct faculty within the community college context. The central research question was: How do women describe their lived experiences as adjunct faculty within a California community college? Participant interviews demonstrated that women describe their lived experiences as adjunct faculty within the community college as an opportunity to engage in higher education, while also balancing personal responsibilities and obligations. Interviews also suggested that women came into adjunct teaching unintentionally, yet remain because it offers additional income, is flexible, allows them independence and is enjoyable. Interviews also noted that women did not think that adjunct teaching was their ideal career, or sustainable as an independent career path. These findings have several implications for potential faculty members, administrators and institutional decision-makers. First, participants appreciate the opportunity to engage with students while balancing life responsibilities. Second, lack of institutional integration was a commonly reported detriment of the position and women did not view their adjunct positions as a career path, yet remained in the position as a response to achieve work-life balance. Administrative implications include development of recruiting and faculty retention policy.

Subject Area

Community college education|Higher Education Administration|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Cross, Emily L, "Exploring the Experiences of Women Adjunct Faculty: A Phenomenology" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3600999.