Stained Glass Cantatas: A Phenomenological Study of Adjunct Faculty Participating in a Community-building Experience

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2006-04-25

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This study is my exploration of the experiences of eight experienced adjunct faculty members participating in conversations around the theme of community and its role in their relationships to peers and to the university. The text for this study is based upon individual conversations with the participants, and upon conversations held in four group seminar sessions focused on community and community-building.

The question guiding this inquiry is the following: "What is it like for adjunct faculty to participate in a community-building experience?" The hermeneutic phenomenological approach to my research is grounded in the phenomenological philosophies of Martin Heidegger (1953/1996) and Han-Georg Gadamer (1960/2003). Max van Manen (2003) provides the methodological framework for the research activities. Poetry, stories, and literature from the disciplines of education, community development, and ways of being are used to open up new ways of thinking about the adjunct faculty experiences as shared in the conversational text.

The stained glass cantata and the rose window are the metaphors that come forward through reflections on my own experiences of community and the experiences of the adjunct faculty participants. In chapters one, two, and three, I liken the voices of adjunct faculty to that of a stained glass cantata - that of many voices, each singing his/her own stained glass color, joined together in the community of university adjunct faculty.

In chapter four, as I revisit the conversations, I begin to build a stained glass rose window, using the geometry of the window to refract the lived experiences of the conversants in a focused community-building environment. The themes of their relationships with each other and with the university are brought forward in separate petals of the rose window: "The Seeker," "The Supplicant," "The Jester," "The Joiner," "The Bookie," "The Bouncer," "The Architect," and "The Advocate." Each petal is constructed with the many colors of the individual adjuncts as they explore their being as adjuncts in community with peers.

In chapter five the implications of the experience are explored through the themes of seeking wholeness, defining community, and a proposal for a faculty professional development workshop that explores being above doing.

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