Harriet L. Schwartz, Ph.D. is a 2009 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Laurien Alexandre, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Elaine Gale, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Joyce Fletcher, Ph.D., External Reader


relational practice, college faculty, master’s students, grounded theory, mentoring relationships, adult learners, relational cultural theory, qualitative research, student professor relations, graduate students, positive psychology

Document Type


Publication Date



Master’s education in the social sciences provides a unique opportunity for students and teachers. Students often bring extensive professional and life experience to the classroom, as well as clarity regarding their academic goals. Professors who teach on the master’s level are distinctly committed to the teaching mission and see their students’ experience as valuable to their own growth as teachers and to the ongoing development and vitality of their academic programs. The purpose of this study is to explore what goes on in relational practice between master’s students and professors. Ten matched pairs of recent alumni and professors (from six different schools) were interviewed. Participants reflected on their relationships while the student was enrolled in the master’s program, and the evolution of their relationships in the alumni context. Grounded theory dimensional analysis was employed to analyze the interview data. Six dimensions each emerged from the professor and student data respectively. The professor dimensions are: Orienting, Self-organizing, Valuing, Advancing, Bounding, and Regenerating. The student dimensions are: Engaging, Navigating, Developing, Connecting, Reconstructing, and Collaborating. The professors’ Regenerating and the students’ Reconstructing are the core dimensions. A combined exploration of the professor and student dimensional analyses surfaced six theoretical propositions: energizing the relationship, teaching and learning are bidirectional, difference is potential, asymmetrical primacy, working close to the boundaries, and the connection paradox. This study draws from literature in the following domains: relational cultural theory, positive psychology, positive work relationships, mentoring, adult development, and adult learning. The wisdom of these literatures combined with the findings of this study, provide a deep consideration of the relational space and experience of master’s students and professors, exploring elements such as mutuality, boundaries, friendship, professional development, positionality, humor, connection and collaboration. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,