Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Dwight E. Giles, Jr.

Second Advisor

Jay R. Dee

Third Advisor

KerryAnn O'Meara


The study examined the factors critical to sustaining mid-career faculty vitality. This research fills a gap in the literature; few studies have defined faculty vitality conceptually or have examined mid-career faculty in public comprehensive universities. The dimensions of faculty vitality were examined within a theoretical framework of person-organization fit, mid-career stage, and vitality, and within a conceptual framework of antecedents, components, and outcomes of faculty vitality.

The research utilized a qualitative, phenomenological approach as a method of inquiry, to seek interpretative and descriptive data. Thirty participants were purposefully selected based on their responses to a questionnaire administered to 102 associate and full professors at three public comprehensive universities in New England. The findings indicated that when supported by opportunity structures, mid-career faculty are motivated to increase and sustain their vitality. Choice of location of the university near family of origin, particular life philosophies, and a long-term relationship with a mentor from graduate school were antecedents of faculty vitality. Components of vitality--energy, growth mindset, grit, optimism, creativity, curiosity, risk taking, and challenge seeking --acted as motivators that increased faculty productivity. Outcomes of faculty vitality included intent to stay at their institution and a strong sense of person-organization fit. Mid-career faculty also perceived positive changes in their feelings, attitudes, and behaviors at this career stage --a time of increasing autonomy to do meaningful work in relation to the missions of their institutions. Mid-career faculty described their roles as change agents and creative problem solvers; this finding suggests that vital mid-career faculty can also contribute to the vitality of their institutions. Two unanticipated findings of this study were that some mid-career faculty in public comprehensive universities were integrated scholars whose teaching, research, and service activities were highly interrelated, and that teaching vitality, a combination of intellectual curiosity and energy, appeared to be the engine that drove this integration.


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