Date of Conferral


Date of Award







Catherine Marienau


The purpose of the study was to discover the phenomenology of a particular cohort of midlife professionals who explored their professional life through an inquiry of critical reflective practice. Propelled by career advancement, the complexity of the workplace, and their inner drive to find meaning at the mid-point of their lives, the midlevel North American community college academic administrators enrolled in a year-long continuing professional education program. During the practicum phrase, they recorded their impressions of their own quest for meaning through critical reflective practice. Reflective passages, extracted from the unstructured journals of a cohort of 13 self-selected participants, were analyzed and interpreted using the phenomenological research model.

The theoretical framework was the existential-phenomenological view of situated freedom. Therefore, the phenomenon was first explored by delving into midlife development theories and the search for meaning in midlife. Second, the cohort was situated within the context of late 20$\rm\sp{th}$ century higher education organizational structure and culture.

The study found a pattern of reflective learning among those who lived the same phenomenon. Having achieved mastery as teachers in first adulthood, they sought meaning in the transformation to second adulthood by channeling their need for generativity into the facilitation of productive change at their community college.

Since their primary source of information was the solitary process of critical reflective practice, they perceived of their limited success as unique, resulting in a heightened sense of personal responsibility for progress. A community of peers, who share the same experience, would have enabled these advanced professionals to view the phenomenon of the midlevel change agent not as symptomatic of personal deficiencies but as indicative of systemic dynamics.

For midlife professionals to achieve their goals, solo introspective self-examination and peer community need to be supplemented with increased knowledge of organizational dynamics, consensual agreement with superiors on role of the midlevel change agent, and a balance between elements of personal and professional life. Both institutions and continuing professional education programs would contribute to increasing the productivity of dedicated midlevel administrators by treating them as holistic people with unrealized potential.* ftn*Originally published in DAI Vol. 58, No. 8. Reprinted here with corrected author name.