UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Stories of educational journeys and leadership : travelling betwixt and between Fleming, John Vernon


The growing influence of neoliberalism in post-secondary education has changed the definitions of both education and educational leadership, moving each further away from values of participatory democracy toward educational practices that are antithetical to such principles. Under neoliberal conditions, education becomes a commodified resource in a global marketplace, impacting identities and relationships: students become customers, faculty are contractors, and administrators are corporate managers. This study is autoethnography: the story of a dean working in a post-secondary institution in British Columbia, Canada. Engaging multiple exercises in reflexivity, including biographical self-analysis and creative non-fiction, the author attempts to surface his own leadership values and dispositions, illustrating how these conflict with those of the neoliberal institution he serves. Specifically, he asks himself: Who are you and what do you stand for? The study draws on a Sociological Imagination to confront the dissonance characteristic of his leadership experience, reconstructing it from failure of personal agency to predictable and conflicted consequences of the social impact of neoliberalism on higher education. The story documents how neoliberal changes have affected his institution, shifting it from its roots grounded in philosophies of access and social justice to its current focus on competitive global market economies. A key claim of the study is that educational leadership must be reconstructed as a plural identity that entails the exercise of judgment in multiple “worlds” that, in turn, are grounded in conflicting values and practices. Such a stance may make it possible for educational leaders to survive under neoliberal conditions while also creating and supporting opportunities for democratic eruptions and contestations. Educational leaders must learn to travel betwixt and between conflicting worlds to contribute to education as the pursuit of a good and worthwhile life for all.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International