Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

Norma T. Mertz

Committee Members

Dorian L. McCoy, Tricia McClam, J. Patrick Biddix


Increasingly, the challenges of modern adult life include the responsibility for ambiguous tasks, the need to work as a team with diverse others and the expectation to make important decisions in the face of competing interests. Research suggests that individuals able to meet these challenges demonstrate self-authorship, a way of knowing that allows them to exert control over their lives. Existing research provides insight into college students’ self-authorship and the influence of situational, environmental and personal factors on self-authorship development. However, the literature has yet to explore students’ own understanding of their self-authorship development. The purpose of this study was to explore the ways students make meaning of their self-authorship and self-authorship development.

This study utilized a qualitative approach and a narrative inquiry design to collect data from recent college graduates. Eleven graduates from a public, comprehensive university in the southeast participated in the study. Participants represented a variety of ethnic backgrounds, ages, and academic disciplines. Each participated in two in-depth, semi-structured interviews. The study utilized a constant comparative approach to analysis, and open, axial, and selective coding, to identify themes that would inform the findings of the study.

The findings of the study include the following: (1) nine of the eleven participants demonstrated self-authored perspectives and processes, (2) participants viewed their self-authorship development not as a series of developmental experiences or transitions, but as a singular experience of continuous development, (3) participants made meaning of their self-authorship in the context of their independence and purpose, and (4) participants’ understanding of their development provided new insight into self-authorship and its development.

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