Re-Shaping the Faculty: Emergence and Development of “Permanent-Contingent” Roles through the Lens of Cultural-Historical Activity Theory

Oleksandr Tkachenko, Karen Seashore Louis


This study retrospectively examines the emergence and development of a new class of full-time non-tenure track employees in a large land grant research university in the U.S., which created the employment category in 1980. We employ cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) to explore how this class of employees became institutionalized within the university organizational structure and within the university’s consultative and decision-making processes. The study advances the understanding of how broad academic personnel strategies emerge in higher education. Given that there are few longitudinal studies examining the way personnel strategies are made in higher education, we hope that this paper will provide a useful frame of reference for developing research on institutions of higher education as work environments. By utilizing CHAT in a higher education setting, our inquiry also contributes an alternative perspective to the stream of research on organizational change in higher education.


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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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