College of Communication Master of Arts Theses

Date of Award

Spring 6-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Organizational and Multicultural Communication

First Advisor

Alexandra Murphy, PhD

Second Advisor

Suchitra Shenoy, PhD


This thesis examines the ways in which organizational members define what it means to communicate professionally, the extent to which enacting professional identity reflects organizational identification and individual identity, and the specific contexts in which professionalism is most encouraged. Data collected from participant interviews highlighted three intersectional components related to the enactment professional identity and perceptions of [un]professionalism—technical, behavioral, and social. Further, the results of this study suggest that professionalism as a communicative construct manifests itself in the midst of ongoing tension between individual agency and organizational constraint, conflating individual identities with norms, values, and expectations set forth by the organization in relation to the external environment. While each of these components can be considered separately in terms of their unique properties and dimensions, it is in their intersections that the most salient symbolic and material consequences for professional identities are manifested. Through analyzing the ways in which participants "do" professional identity in light of situated norms, this research offers a new model of professionalism that recognizes the intersectional relationship among individuals, organizations, and the overarching environment. Future work should investigate the construct of professional identity in nontraditional organizational settings, as well as how professionalism operates in relation to dominant discourses of identity (i.e., race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ability, etc.).

Included in

Communication Commons