Publication Date

April 2015

Advisor(s)

Margot Weiss

Major

Anthropology

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

“Leaving the Nest: Life at the Neoliberal University’ is an ethnographic exploration of today’s university, highlighting the tension between aspects of university life that are more corporatized or business-like and aspects that are more relational or affective. It focuses on class, privilege, and power at the liberal arts college Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. The thesis draws on interviews and participant observation research of student experiences and begins to address the lack of knowledge of university operations among students. The thesis has three central concerns. The first is the myth of the campus community, and how community rhetoric shapes students’ experiences of belonging. The second concern is with ideas of critical thinking and academic excellence, exploring the political possibilities opened up and closed down in the institution. Lastly the thesis analyses student desires for close faculty-student interaction, situating these desires within changing university dynamics. ’Leaving the Nest” prioritizes often omitted experiences and narratives contextualizing them in terms of structural, neoliberal transformations so that they might reveal the failures of corporate university narratives and craft an alternative vision of the university.

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