Communication ETDs


Sarah Fuller

Publication Date



This study revealed the interpersonal networks and communication resources available to women who are both mothers and professors in a large university in the southwestern United States. The current study was an inquiry using approaches from the ethnography of communication (EOC), which holds that culture and communication are inseparable and synonymous (Carbaugh, 2007; Covarrubias, 2002; Philipsen, 1997).Therefore, by interviewing nine women who are mothers of at least one child living at home and are also full-time professors, I accessed utterances that explicate cultural enactments of motherhood in the academy. During the course of this study, I asked the professors who are mothers what nomenclature they preferred to explicate their roles: unanimously participants answered mother professor'. Therefore, honoring research participants' preferences, I refer to women who are full time professors and mothers as mother professors. In addition to the EOC, this study used border theory (Clark, 2000; Desrochers & Sargent, 2004; Nippert-Eng, 1996) and double bind theory (Bateson et al., 1956) as theoretical frameworks. Border theory operationalizes the experiences of individuals into domains, or spaces and places which govern specific behavior, rules of conduct, and cultural expectations. This study found that women who are mother professors engaged their lives in two separate domains: the professoriate and motherhood; domains that are at odds with one another from an occupational standpoint. Oftentimes, the borders of the two roles overlap and even collide, affecting the mother professor's cultural enactment and communication resources in each domain. The nature of the border often forced mother professors to divide their roles into parceled-out enactments: that of mother at home, and that of professor in the workplace. Mother professors cope with this communication border crossing and role enactment in two ways: by hiding the fact that they are a mother when in the professoriate domain through self-censorship regarding motherhood, or by seeking mentors and colleagues in the professoriate who are also mothers to gain interpersonal network support, in particular to serving as sounding boards.




Border Theory, Double bind theory, Ethnography of Communication

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Committee Member (Chair)

Shiver, Janet

Second Committee Member

Shields, Julie

Third Committee Member