Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication & Theatre Arts

Committee Director

Thonas Socha

Committee Member

Gary Beck

Committee Member

Myles McNutt


This thesis unlocks the lifespan story of nine Black participants as they reflected on the communicative practices that guided their career journey towards becoming a teacher. Through the lens of Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) socio-ecological development model, the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem were examined to understand the content of career-related memories and with whom or what the communicative experiences occurred with across the participants’ lifespan. This study also takes an in-depth look at how the content of the memories evolved across Erikson’s (1964) childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood developmental periods, and the influence of the proximal and distal socio-ecological environments during these times.

Through the Lifeline Interview Method (LIM) and the Twenty Statement Career Test (TSCT), a Grounded Theoretical Approach (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was used to allow the theories “grounded in” the data to emerge. The data revealed the most impactful communicative experiences across the lifespan primarily resonated within the home through experiences with parents; in the school through positive and negative experiences with a teacher; and through television shows with Black-leading actors, such as Julia and The Cosby Show. The communicative experiences that took place during one’s adolescence developmental period were most reflected on and included a teacher.

The communicative practices within the distal and proximal environments both impacted the developing person. The distal communicative experiences that resonated from a television show influenced the development of the individual, but it was the experiences within the proximal environments that had the most significant impact on the participant’s career journey. Building upon the existing relational dialectical work of Baxter and Montgomery (1996), an unexpected finding emerged from the study that revealed the intrapersonal dialects toward career identity development that include: Recognition-Rejection, Committed-Uncommitted, and Expressed-Hidden/Withheld. Implications for future studies are to develop a better understanding of the relational dialectics of vocational identity development and each dialectical tension. There is also a need to develop a deeper understanding of the communicative practices around the Black body and those of whom not only reach their authentic career identity but especially those who successfully secure their career identity within a White dominant occupational space.


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