Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

Melissa Sherfinski

Committee Member

Keri Valentine

Committee Member

Sharon Hayes

Committee Member

Jiangmei Yuan


In this study, I critically examine how graduate teaching assistants’ (GTAs’) experiences are discursively shaped by the exercise of power in neoliberal higher education contexts and hence, to reveal the hidden aspects of educational institutions, which are central to our understandings about the meaning of truth, fairness, and equity embedded in neoliberal academic settings. To understand the experiences of graduate teaching assistants in this neoliberal teacher education setting, the major research questions of this study explore how the different identities that GTAs possess influence their interactions with the neoliberal higher education context and how they navigate as well as resist such power relations.

In order to critically examine how GTAs become marginalized on college campuses, a combined theoretical framework is employed in this study including a Foucauldian analysis of power and discourse (e.g., Michael Foucault), positioning theory (e.g., Rom Harre and Luk Van Langenhove), and intersectionality (e.g., Patricia Hill Collins). Moreover, critical narrative analysis of GTAs’ experiences (n=5) will be the study method. Data are primarily collected from semi-structured in person interviews. The data analysis revealed shared common experiences of GTAs working in neoliberal teacher education settings. and unique individual experiences due to the intersecting identities that each of the participants possess.

The results of this study suggest that neoliberal discourses have penetrated every aspect of graduate students’ academic lives, which have forced us to talk about and conduct ourselves in ways that are most desired by the neoliberal institutions, or what Foucault (1998) refers to as “the technology of the self.” As a result, our relationships with our professors, colleagues, as well as our students, have changed profoundly. Moreover, the GTAs' experiences in the neoliberal institutions become more complicated when different identities are taken into consideration, which have created a mass site of struggles within each of us. Many of the participants have adopted Foucault's notion of "the care of the self" (Ball & Olmedo, 2013) as a way to approach the complex relationships in the neoliberal working environment and to resist the neoliberal governmentalities. Lastly, structural and policy level changes as well as limitations of this study are also provided at the end of the paper.

Embargo Reason

Publication Pending