Muneka Nwoko

Date of Award

January 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Research

First Advisor

Cheryl Hunter


A persistent disadvantage of individuals and couples navigating and negotiating parental leave policies is often embedded in biased assumptions. Oftentimes, as a result, individuals and couples inherently encounter vastly different parental leave experiences. However, recommendations from the literature and federal policy support the need for gender equity, family-focused initiatives, and workplace interventions related to individuals and couples navigating and negotiating parental leave processes. Yet because of a lack of policy standardization, policy protocols related to these recommendations have proved unsuccessful in addressing the complexities individuals and couples experience when navigating and negotiating parental leave processes. Thus, this study applies a discourse analysis framework to examine the implications of the lack of standardization of parental leave policies. Data collection consisted of interviews conducted during the summer and fall semester of 2016 involving staff, faculty, and administrators. The emergent interview data revealed that participants across the institutional community navigated and negotiated leave amid anxiety, pressure, and uncertainty of institutional processes, protocols, and communications. My findings suggest that discourses surrounding navigated and negotiated parental leave policies remain stigmatized because of a lack of policy standardization and the understanding of policy processes, as well as workplace productivity pressures. Recommendations to improve these discourses include creating standardized communication initiatives related to parental leave protocols and implementing parameters to address the needs of academic mothers and fathers.