The Construction of Professional Identity and Pathways of Participation of Full Time Faculty Members in University Restructuring in Mexico
Since the 1990s, the federal government required public state universities in Mexico to recruit full time faculty members with doctoral degrees and research productivity to increase the academic competitiveness of higher education. After two decades of the implementation of federal mandates, public state universities have not improved their academic life significantly (Chavoya-Peña, et al., 2006). The failure of federal programs for university restructuring can be understood from a variety of perspectives. Central to this failure is the faculty body.
Based on a case study approach, this investigation sought to understand the ways in which full time faculty members that entered state public universities since 1996 as part of the Faculty Enhancement Program (PROMEP) negotiate their professional identity within a climate of university restructuring in Mexico. The case site was a public state university in the state of Morelos (UM) in the central valley of Mexico. This investigation included three research questions: What are the contextual factors for the negotiation of academic identity? What are the practices that enable full time faculty to negotiate their academic identity? What are the characteristics of the academic identity of full time faculty? Organizational theory, cultural theory, and professional identity theory shaped the theoretical framework.
Empirical data collected through semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and document analysis was interpreted through analytical induction (Erickson, 1986) and reflexive analysis (Aunger, 1995). Three central findings are presented. First, full time faculty members at UM self-defined as researchers. Full time faculty members negotiated their academic identity within two types of Faculties: parochial and modern Faculties. Each type of Faculty had a different cultural orientation and social structure to organize academic life. Second, full time faculty members stressed their reluctance to participate in committee work; yet they engaged actively in institutional service activities in order to create organizational conditions that facilitated the development of research and teaching. Third, through strategies of self-regulation, full time faculty members negotiated three types of self-definitions: the academic as researcher, the academic as change-maker, and the academic as saturated worker. Contributions of this study, implications for practice, and pathways for further research are discussed.