Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education

First Advisor's Name

Dr. Douglas Robertson

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Daniel Saunders

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Sarah Mathews

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Rebekah Schulze

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Dr. Thomas Reio

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


higher education, female staff, academic advisors, department climate, ethic of care, support, conflict

Date of Defense



Women in higher education face several challenges including visibility, chilly work climates, and barriers to leadership positions. Research on women in academia has focused on faculty and leadership and less on the female staff working service jobs, such as the role of the academic advisor. This interpretive qualitative study uses one-on-one interviews with eight full-time, female academic advisors working in a single, public, 4-year university.

The interviews revealed the experiences of women working in this role, explored their intradepartmental climates, their career aspirations, and the interactions they have with their female coworkers. The objective of the study was to take a closer look at their day-to-day working conditions, and the connections that are inevitably built in the office. Carol Gilligan’s theory on the ethic of care was used to frame the interpersonal relationships between the women, specifically to determine if the relationships were supportive or competitive in nature.

The results revealed that frequent face-to-face interactions between advisors, having a say in hiring decisions, and a shared space for advisors to work together all contributed to a positive department climate. Factors closely associated with conflict include an unclear pathway for promotion, limited opportunities to demonstrate leadership abilities, and having access to view and compare coworkers’ salaries. Factors associated with support included physical proximity, small-sized teams, and nurturing relationships between the advisors.





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