First Advisor

Birnbaum, Matthew

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The purpose of this qualitative, interpretivist phenomenological study was to understand and provide a transferable, informed, and learned perspective of the daily experience of working in the liminal space between two powerful, ostensibly cooperative but often competing interests: major university undergraduate academics and big-time Division I athletics. Nine learning specialists from Division I Power Five institutions participated in phenomenological interviews. Findings indicated that the phenomenon constituted a liminal space between the opposing forces of academics and athletics, with student-athletes, faculty, colleagues, and coaches having influence on the liminality. Unit directors diminished the sense of liminality while faculty contributed very little to it. Advisors and coaches contributed most significantly to the negative liminal experience of the phenomenon, characterized by senses of dissolution, dislocation, reversal and uncertainty consistent and deleterious liminal effect. Participants indicated that the most powerful motivating force in the job was love for the students. Implications of this study for the profession include an understanding of forces affecting learning specialists and student-athletes and recognition of one reason for the high turnover rate among learning specialists. This study will assist in recognizing and understanding liminality, and may afford learning specialists the means to reduce its effects.


237 pages

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