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Negotiating corporate colonization: Communication and student identity in a service -learning program

Purdue University
Publication Date
  • Speech Communication|Psychology
  • Developmental|Education
  • Higher
  • Communication
  • Education


This dissertation explores the ways in which service-learning experience engages and/or challenges students' identities as constructed through corporatized education. Using ethnographic methods, I examine the ways in which students enrolled in service-learning courses attempt to negotiate the competing educational models presented by the service-learning courses on the one hand, and a corporatized university context on the other. I argue that service-learning instructors frame to legitimate and advocate particular issues and potential tensions between service-learning and the university. The instructors' framing functions as a form of discursive closure. Placing these service-learning classrooms in the context of the larger university, I identify the ways in which students rely on an expression-based model of communication that incorporates a corporate perspective for understanding expectations for instructors, students, and knowledge. Finally, in focusing on student identity construction processes, I found that students enact multiple identities that belie service-learning's focus on the notion of a unified sense of self. Contrary to the passivity afforded by the student-as-consumer metaphor, these students actively work to construct particular identities to enact in various university contexts. This study highlights the centrality of an ideology of individualism in student identity construction processes and identifies a need to re-examine this student-as-consumer metaphor. These findings allow for reconsideration of student resistance and provide a basis for understanding the implications of corporate colonization within higher education. ^

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