PhD students as boundary spanning agents: an exploration of student values, goals, and agency in the era of cross-sector permeation

Matthew M. Mars, Bryan G. Moravec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Market forces and other external pressures have significantly transformed higher education over the past four decades. Research on the influence of cross-sector permeation on doctoral education has primarily focused on preparing and socializing students for academic careers that involve entrepreneurial activity. Conversely, PhD student agency involving cross-sector engagement and the pursuit of individual values and goals in ways that span the boundaries of academia have been overlooked. The purpose of this study is to qualitatively explore how a sample of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) students in Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering (STEM) programs recognized, made sense of and navigated cross-sector permeation relevant to their individual passions and commitments to climate change alleviation. Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted an embedded case study that qualitatively explored how 16 STEM PhD students recognized, made sense of and navigated cross-sector permeation relevant to their individual values and goals and commitments to climate change alleviation. Data were collected through individual interviews that probed the participants’ engagement and agency in cross-sector permeation. Findings: The authors identified three themes that frame the role of PhD students as boundary spanning agents. The themes involve students placing their values and goals over specific positions and career paths, aligning their values and goals with cross-sector conditions and creating opportunities through cross-sector engagement. Practical implications: Recommendations are provided for fostering and enhancing the agency PhD students have over the pursuit of their individual values and goals and their engagement in boundary spanning activities and strategies. Originality/value: Cross-sector permeation is framed relevant to PhD student agency and boundary spanning. The findings introduce the role of PhD students as boundary spanning agents who intentionally pursue their individual values and goals in ways that extend beyond traditional academic career pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-220
Number of pages16
JournalStudies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 25 2022

Keywords

  • Academic capitalism
  • Agency
  • Boundary spanning
  • Cross-sector permeation
  • Doctoral education
  • Faculty mentoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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