Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Holly Payne (Director), Angela Jerome, Jennifer Smith

Degree Program

Department of Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Building on existing studies of identification, this paper melds crisis research with studies of identity to understand how crises influence workplace identities. To accomplish this, the study addresses two research questions: (a) How are professors’ identities enacted during the COVID-19 crisis? And, how, if at all, does university rhetoric shape the enactment of identity during the COVID-19 crisis? This paper uses qualitative methods to get rich descriptions of professorial identities allowing research to get at the heart of how changes during the pandemic affected professors’ organizational, personal, professional, and workgroup identities. Overall, this study shows the pandemic encouraged professors to centralize identities around professionalism to justify the new dangers and labor that came with the pandemic. Likewise, the study shows that university rhetoric facilitated this shift to convince professors to uphold pre-pandemic instructional norms. This study also shows during prolonged crises, workers augment their professional identities with the ways they help the organization overcome the crisis, increasing identity salience. This study advances communication literature by including psychoanalysis into identification research to critically evaluate emerging identities during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Arts and Humanities | Communication | Continental Philosophy | Critical and Cultural Studies | Organizational Communication | Philosophy | Social and Behavioral Sciences