Date of Award

Spring 4-9-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Len Hightower, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Carlos Guzman, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Laurie Wellner, Ed.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe and explore what factors, as perceived by adjunct faculty and those who hire and manage them at nonprofit universities, had the greatest impact on their decision to continue to serve in the part-time role. A secondary purpose was to explore differences between the perceptions of adjunct faculty and those who hire and manage them with regard to these factors.

Methodology:This phenomenological qualitative study collected data through in-depth interviews with ten adjunct faculty members and five supervisors working for private nonprofit California institutions of higher education. After transcription, data was coded to describe the similarities and differences in perception of the reasons adjunct faculty continue teaching part-time. Documents and artifacts were gathered to support data triangulation.

Findings: Data analysis yielded four major themes that have an impact on an adjunct faculty member’s decision to continue working part-time. Participants referenced the relationships that adjunct faculty have with their administrators, colleagues, and students most often. Participants discussed their compensation and benefits and most shared that they do not teach for the money or benefits. Faculty participants agreed that their flexible work schedule and the day-to-day work of an adjunct faculty member were also influential in their decision.

Conclusions:There was widespread agreement amongst participants that they value collegial relationships and their flexible part-time work schedule. Adjunct faculty members emphasized that they do not teach for financial gain but rather to be part of a community, share their professional knowledge, and work with students. Most are disinterested in professional growth and participants expressed concern about the connection between academic freedom and the evaluation of their work by students.

Recommendations: Future research should examine the relationship between adjunct faculty category and retention. This study should be replicated at a wider range of universities and additional studies conducted to explore the differences between the perceptions of new and long-term adjunct faculty. Research should be conducted to learn why adjunct faculty members choose to leave their positions. Finally, a grounded theory study should be conducted to develop a more current model of adjunct faculty experiences.