Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Learning, Leadership and Change

First Advisor

Rachelle Kisst Hackett

First Committee Member

Delores McNair

Second Committee Member

Chris Sablynski


The academic career path for tenure track faculty in most four-year universities in the United States allows those who earn tenure to make an individual choice about whether to pursue promotion to the rank of full professor. Limited research exists on the intrinsic motivators that individuals possess and draw upon to push past obstacles or challenges they encounter along their academic career journey. This study explored the role of intrinsic motivation in the decision of tenured associate professors to pursue promotion to full professor. Using a basic qualitative research design, this inquiry involved two in-depth interviews each with seven participants. Data analysis followed a thematic approach to make meaning of the participants’ thoughts and elicit findings guided by the research questions and the framework of career motivation theory encompassing three constructs: career resilience, career insight, and career identity. The findings from this study show both intrinsic motivations and external influences that are at play in the career decision process and illustrate how the tenured university professor’s career is a journey rife with obstacles that intrinsic motivation alone is insufficient to navigate. The implications of this study suggest ways to better support tenured faculty who aspire to promotion to full professor and offers advice for faculty who find themselves pondering this career decision with limited guideposts to direct them.