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dc.contributor.advisorGardner, Howarden_US
dc.contributor.authorTing, Tiffanie Luien_US
dc.date.accessioned2014-11-14T20:01:36Z
dc.date.created2014-11en_US
dc.date.issued2014-10-22en_US
dc.date.submitted2014en_US
dc.identifier.citationTing, Tiffanie Lui. 2014. The Practical or the Purposeful: A Study of Academic Decision-Making Among College Students in an Elite Institutional Context. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.en_US
dc.identifier.urihttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13383550
dc.description.abstractIn this dissertation, I investigate how thirty-nine undergraduates at Harvard College make one of their first consequential, academic decisions in the context of a powerful cultural narrative about the economic purpose of college. By examining students’ narratives about their academic decision-making, namely how they chose their concentrations, I seek to understand the underlying rationales behind their choices and relatedly, students’ ideas about the purpose of their college education. I focus on sophomores considering Economics – widely considered the most “practical” concentration and also the most popular, and those considering the arts, often considered among the “least useful” by students. I demonstrate that the dominant cultural view of the economic purpose of college also governs the academic decision-making of participants, reflecting the national norm. Despite their position as students in an elite liberal arts context, participants held this rationale as the basis for justifying and/or undermining their choice of major. Both the economics and arts students reference a shared narrative of “what Harvard students do” that is rooted in economic considerations and notions of achievement and legitimacy associated with their group identity as Harvard students. I argue that “what Harvard students do” is a shared cognition that has assumed a rule-like status in the context of Harvard. It draws upon a discourse of practicality that involves: 1) a separation between practicality and happiness; 2) a technical rational view of education that privileges quantitative skills and ways of knowing as more practical; 3) pay range expectations that will be “decent” enough to live on comfortably, to pursue hobbies and a certain lifestyle, and 4) a concern for prestige and elite status achieved through competition for particular work opportunities. I examine the ways in which this discourse informs students’ conceptions of opportunity and risk and document their strategies for decision-making in relation to this institutional constraint. Finally, I discuss the implications of these findings for students’ conceptions of the legitimacy of a liberal arts education, the impact of achievement culture and the elite admissions process on students’ approach to their education, and the dilemma of a group identity based on brand versus community.en_US
dc.format.mimetypeapplication/pdfen_US
dc.language.isoenen_US
dash.licenseLAAen_US
dc.subjectEducation, Higheren_US
dc.subjectSociology, Generalen_US
dc.titleThe Practical or the Purposeful: A Study of Academic Decision-Making Among College Students in an Elite Institutional Contexten_US
dc.typeThesis or Dissertationen_US
dash.depositing.authorTing, Tiffanie Luien_US
dc.date.available2014-11-14T20:01:36Z
thesis.degree.date2014en_US
thesis.degree.grantorHarvard Graduate School of Educationen_US
thesis.degree.levelDoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.nameDoctor of Education (Ed.D.)en_US
dc.type.materialtexten_US
dc.description.keywordsundergraduates; decision-making; higher education; elite education; liberal artsen_US
dash.identifier.drsurn-3:HUL.DRS.OBJECT:25123239en_US
dash.contributor.affiliatedTing, Tiffanie


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