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The Imposter Phenomenon in Higher Education: Incidence and Impact



Clance (1978) first identified the Impostor Phenomenon in therapeutic sessions with highly successful women who attributed achievements to external factors even in the presence of evidence to the contrary. These individuals, believing themselves unworthy of promotions, recognition and rewards, saw themselves as frauds. Those dealing with impostor tendencies put a considerable amount of pressure on themselves to maintain the façade and as such are known to exhibit high levels of perfectionism and workaholic behaviors. This article reviews the definition and traits associated with the Impostor Phenomenon with a focus on incidence and impact in higher education.
The Imposter Phenomenon in Higher Education: Incidence and Impact
Anna Parkman
Ohio Dominican University
Clance (1978) first identified the Impostor Phenomenon in therapeutic sessions with highly successful
women who attributed achievements to external factors even in the presence of evidence to the contrary.
These individuals, believing themselves unworthy of promotions, recognition and rewards, saw
themselves as frauds. Those dealing with impostor tendencies put a considerable amount of pressure on
themselves to maintain the façade and as such are known to exhibit high levels of perfectionism and
workaholic behaviors. This article reviews the definition and traits associated with the Impostor
Phenomenon with a focus on incidence and impact in higher education.
These are difficult times in higher education. Increased competition for students, declining state
appropriations (Barnshaw & Dunietz, 2015), ratcheted scrutiny by the federal government and intense
pressure to deliver on outcomes within a four-year time frame by accrediting bodies have left many
colleges and universities reeling (Howard, 2015; Woodson, 2013). This pressure is complemented by a
rampant consumer mentality that has organizations struggling to keep up with student and parental
demands for diverse curricula delivered in high-end facilities, which must ultimately lead to job
placement (Potter, 2011; Woodson, 2015). Shrinking birth cohorts coupled with population shifts have
led to declining enrollments in many colleges and universities. Those who are tuition dependent,
particularly private institutions, are feeling the stress more than others, but they are not alone (Edwards,
2015). The vast majority of institutions are working hard to attract new students and retain those who
arrive on campus each fall. Under increasing pressures to do more with less in organizations with
uncertain wage increases and rising expectations, faculty and staff are considering employment changes
(Flaherty, 2013). None can afford to lose highly-valued contributors as budgets tighten. Whether it is the
student population or the seasoned high-performing faculty and staff, colleges and universities need to be
thinking about retention. The Imposter Phenomenon (IP) has been well documented in the academy and it
has the potential to negatively impact an organization’s ability to retain students, faculty, and staff alike.
Understanding the Imposter Phenomenon can be very helpful in identifying those at risk for leaving.
Equally as important, studying trends in addressing IP can curb the flow and create a more inviting
environment allowing colleges and universities to retain top performers across the academy.
Clance and Imes (1978) utilized the term Imposter Phenomenon to describe the traits and behaviors of
a group of high-achieving women who were struggling to internalize their success. These women
Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 16(1) 2016 51
described feelings of fraudulence because they did not attribute their success to their own abilities despite
many achievements and accolades. Imposters see themselves as unworthy of the level of praise they are
receiving because they do not believe they have earned such recognition based on their capabilities,
causing heightened levels of anxiety and stress (Clance & Imes, 1978; Cowman & Ferrari, 2002; Harvey
& Katz, 1985; Hutchins, 2015; Kets de Vries, 2005).
One might wonder why it is that such accomplished individuals are unable to take ownership of the
success that is so clear to others; do they just not hear it? Imposters will point out that they are aware of
how others see them but that it is clear to them that the accolades are falsely bestowed because they have
not really earned them (Clance, 1985; Sakulku & Alexander, 2015). Those struggling with impostor
tendencies will link achievement to a lowering of standards, networking, timing and their charm (Clance
& Imes, 1985; Cowman & Ferrari, 2002; Fried-Buchalter, 1997; Kets de Vries, 2005; Kumar &
Jagacinski, 2006). Success is attributed instead to presentation skills that allow them to hide the true
nature of their performance (Cowman & Ferrari, 2002; Kets de Vries, 2005; Kumar & Jagacinski, 2006;
Sakulku & Alexander, 2011). In the mind of the imposter, a very positive but very false impression of
ability has been created.
Maintaining this false impression becomes a significant goal. Others, seeing imposters as achievers,
recognize a capacity for further growth and send more responsibilities their way knowing the job will be
well done. Lack of internalization of past successes, an external locus of control and lack of confidence in
replicating past performance accompanied by the increase in visibility, leads to a significant amount of
fear often associated with a focus on impression management and self-monitoring behaviors (Ket de
Vries, 2005; Kolligian & Sterberg, 1991; Sakulku & Alexander, 2011).
Impostorism, at its root, is about an inability to accurately self-assess with regard to performance
(Kets de Vries, 2005; Want & Kleitman, 2006). In addition, diminished self-confidence and self-efficacy
is known to accompany imposter tendencies (Dahvlig, 2013). In an article based on five women leading
in the faith-based colleges and universities, the author shares a conversation with Christine, an academic
administrator who states, “I still don’t understand what it is that people see that makes them feel confident
in my abilities; it’s just my self confidence is still pretty shaken at times when I just stop and think, ‘I
can’t believe I’m doing this” (Dahvlig, 2013, p.101).
In the face of faltering self-confidence, internalization of failures, and over focus on mistakes over the
long term, stress and anxiety become constant companions. As a result, impostors strive to minimize both
by working longer, working harder and seeking perfection (Cowman & Ferrari, 2002; Sakulku &
Alexander, 2011; Thompson, Foreman, & Martin, 2000). Impostors feel these are the only tools they have
to meet expectations. The impostor often over estimates the abilities of others and underestimates the
amount of work those individuals put into their success. Reflecting on this leads those with IP tendencies
to an extreme emphasis on perfection and effort. As a result, self-inflicted excessive standards for
achievement lead to the creation of unrealistic goals that are ultimately unachievable. Long days filled
with herculean effort end inevitably in failure and recrimination (Clance, 1985). This accentuates the
imposter feelings and fraudulence is exacerbated. In response, the impostor will often exhibit workaholic
behaviors leading to exhaustion and increasing the risk for burnout (Cowman & Ferrari, 2002; Kets de
Vries, 2005; Kumar & Jagacinski, 2006). Rewards and recognition then become associated with anxiety,
stress and work-life balance issues causing the imposter to see both as undesirable (Cowman & Ferrari,
2002; Sakulku & Alexander, 2011). In an effort to decrease the stress, imposters attempt to lower
expectations (Leary, Patton, Orlando & Funk, 2000). While Kolligian and Sternberg (1991) reported that
IPs tend to utilize humor in the form of self-deprecation to discount praise and positive public
acknowledgements denying their established reputation for competence, new research calls into question
the motivation for this self-presentation strategy (Ferrari & Thompson, 2006; McElwee and Urak, 2007).
The continued and often mounting pressure to perform in very public venues rise, as does the stress.
As a result, imposters will often behave in ways that sabotage success and find little joy in work
(Cowman & Ferrari, 2002; Kets de Vries, 2005). New opportunities for development are now often turned
down (Clance, 1985). The focus becomes one of maintaining the façade for as long as possible until an
escape plan can be formulated. The imposter now has to get out before being found out. This leads to a
52 Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 16(1) 2016
decrease in visibility and turning away from support. When able, the imposter begins to retreat to less
public positions or withdraws completely.
Most professionals can relate to the feelings of individuals suffering from the Imposter Phenomenon.
IP feelings can be especially prevalent as new roles are taken on, especially in first jobs, and can return
when new challenges are faced. As Kets de Vries (2005) points out, “To some extent, of course, we are
all imposters. We play roles on the stage of life, presenting a public self that differs from the private self
we share with intimates and morphing both selves as circumstances demand. Displaying a façade is part
and parcel of the human condition” (p. 110). The difference here however is that for the imposter, these
feelings never dissipate. Who then is at risk?
The research findings regarding the incidence of IP in the sexes has been mixed. While early work in
IP centered on its prevalence in professional women (Clance & Imes, 1978; Harvey & Katz, 1985), a
significantly higher mean IP score for men was reported in a sample of male and female faculty members
in a study by Topping (1983). Subsequent research reveals that IP is evident in both men and women
(Clark, Vardeman, Barbar, 2014; Cowman & Ferrari, 2002; Cozzarelli & Major, 1990; Kets de Fries,
2005; Kumar & Jagacinski, 2006; September, McCarrey, Baranowsky, Parent & Schindler, 2001;
Langflord & Clance, 1993).
Imposter Phenomenon has been linked to family background (Castro, Jones, & Mirsalimi 2004; King
& Cooley, 1995; Sakulku & Alexander, 2011; Sonnak & Towell, 2001). Harvey and Katz (1985) link IP
behaviors in individuals who are first in the family to exceed norms or expectations for success in career,
financial, and educational goals. IP manifestations in college-age students has been positively correlated
to parentification (Castro et al., 2004) lack of parental care by Sonnak and Towell (2001) and heightened
paternal parental control (Li, Hughes, & Thu, 2014; Sonnak & Towell, 2000; Want & Kleitman (2006).
In addition, IP has been linked to those individuals who find themselves in careers where objective
measures of success are not always aligned with quality of the product or work such as the creative arts.
In professions where one sex is predominating, individuals of the opposite sex are more likely to
demonstrate imposter behaviors (Harvey & Katz, 1985). IP has been documented across the professions
in a variety of industries including K-12 education, health care, accountancy, finance, law, marketing, and
higher education (Arena & Page, 1992; Byrnes & Lester, 1995; Clance & Imes, 1978; Crouch, Powell,
Grant, Posner-Cahill & Rose, 1991; Fried-Buchalter, 1997; Huffstutler & Varnell, 2006; Mattie, Gietzen,
Davis & Prata, 2008; Parkman & Beard, 2008; Zorn, 2005).
IP and Higher Education
Numerous studies and articles have documented the prevalence of the Imposter Phenomenon in
higher education. The research presents IP tendencies in a variety of student populations, in faculty and in
staff members. While many perceive the college campus as an oasis of tranquility where intellectual
communities strive to seek and share knowledge in a supportive environment the reality in most cases is
markedly different. In an interview published in The McGill Reporter, Zorn remarked that, “Scholarly
isolation, aggressive competitiveness, disciplinary nationalism, a lack of mentoring and the valuation of
product over process are rooted in the university culture. Students and faculty alike are particularly
susceptible to IP feelings” (from McDevitt, 2006 p. 1). In 2015, Hutchins noted that “Impostor tendencies
are alive and well among higher-education faculty…” (p. 2). Given the fact that the academy has not
really changed much with regard to structure over the last ten years and the continual creep of the
corporatization of the academy remains ever present, it appears IP is here to stay. The research provides
insight into areas of commonality and differences between IP in students, faculty and staff.
IP and Faculty
Hutchins (2015) notes that the current work environment in higher education and personality traits of
those attracted to it, align rather closely to those factors that contribute to the development of imposter
tendencies. The author points out that IP is more often seen in those with advanced degrees, those who
Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 16(1) 2016 53
have the traits of conscientiousness, achievement orientation, perfectionistic expectations, and people who
work in highly competitive and stressful occupations. Articles, blogs and commentary from faculty
members found on the webpage for The Chronicle of Higher Education provide anecdotal evidence that
supports Hutchins perspective (Bahn, 2014; Gravois, 2007; Kasper; 2013; Webb; 2013). According to
Hutchins, imposter traits “… might be further heightened within the ‘publish or perish’ academic culture
where performance targets are often vague, support can be inconsistent, and a highly competitive research
and funding climate may inadvertently create a setting conducive to feelings of self-doubt and
fraudulence” (2015, p.4).
A small number of studies have been completed investigating IP in faculty members in large tier-one
research institutions, small private universities and community colleges (Brems, 1994; Dahlvig, 2013;
Hutchins, 2015; Long, Jenkins, & Bracken, 2000). While one study reports a higher incidence in male
faculty (Topping, 1983), the majority of the findings demonstrate that there is no clear indication that sex
plays a part in determining IP tendencies in faculty. Discipline does not appear to be a factor unless the
individual is within the minority with regard to sex. Imposter tendencies have been documented in
individuals in a variety of academic roles. In a paper presented by Long, Jenkins, and Bracken (2000), the
authors share their collective experiences as working class women negotiating the academy as adjuncts,
full-time staff members and in full-time faculty roles. One of the authors states, “I often feel like an
‘Impostor’- I describe this as a kid playing dress-up. This is especially noticeable to me when I teach,
present, or attend 'official’ meetings’ (Long et al, 2000, p. 8).
One would expect IP to manifest itself in faculty in ways that are similar to those in other industries.
This is most likely to start with a faculty member decreasing interactions with students. Brems, Baldwin,
Davis and Namyniuk (1994) state, “Given the interpersonal impact of impostor feelings, their presence
may affect how faculty interact with students; how available faculty make themselves to students for
advising, supervision, and research activities; and how faculty are rated by students on teaching
effectiveness” (p. 184). Apply these behaviors to the classroom and it would not be a far stretch to
imagine that faculty struggling with IP tendencies might also lecture more allowing for fewer interactions,
and leave class as quickly as possible to avoid answering questions. This notion is supported as Brems et
al. (1994) who reported that an instructor’s level of encouragement of questions and ideas was negatively
linked to IP tendencies and that as IP scores decreased the number of advisees increased. These behaviors
have the potential to negatively impact teaching evaluations and perceptions of teaching effectiveness.
The desire to lessen visibility is in all likelihood not only seen in teaching and advising. Scholarship
might also be impacted. Research activities that lead to public scrutiny such as publication and
presentation might become too heavily weighted with the fear of being found out to continue. Similar
behavior could be seen in committee work. While the IP might not mind serving on a committee, it is
hard to imagine he or she would want to be in the position of reporting to the faculty on committee work.
These potential negative outcomes in the area of scholarship, service and teaching combined with the
positive correlation of IP with faculty exhaustion (Hutchins, 2015) set the stage for a host of unattractive
outcomes for the faculty member and the organization.
IP and Staff
Of course organizational practices, policies and climate do not affect faculty alone. Members of the
administrative staff, with or without faculty appointment, are also impacted and arguably more so given
the nature of the appointments. Publications regarding IP in staff roles include librarians (Clark,
Vardeman and Barba, 2014; Faulkner, 2015; Gordon, 2003), academic deans, and those working in
professional administrative functions in finance, human services, student life and adult education
(Crouch, Powel, Grant, Posner-Cahill, & Rose, 1991; Dahlvig, 2013; Long, et al., 2000). Clark et al.
(2014) studied the Imposter Phenomenon in college and research librarians. While differences between
gender scores were not significant, “The combination of the IP scale scores and the short-answer
responses paint an overall picture of the prevalence of IP feelings” (p.259). The authors report that one in
eight academic librarians in the sample have IP scores above the benchmark. Respondents describe a
“…tendency to second-guess their work, to strive excessively for perfection, and to hesitate to stand up
54 Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 16(1) 2016
for themselves and share their opinions” (Clark et al., 2014, p. 264). In the study, findings include reports
of procrastination behaviors, stress, anxiety and demotivation. Short-answer responses tend to support the
concerns articulated by Hutchins (2015) about climate and culture. According to Clark et al.,“While
library organizations may not necessarily cause IP feelings, survey respondents perceived that the culture
fosters those feelings” (p. 264).
Vergauwe, Wille, Feys, DeFruyt and Anseel (2014) were particularly interested in how IP traits might
be related to work outcomes. The authors report that those individuals who have significant levels of
impostor behaviors and as such are living with the fear of exposure, are more likely to be dissatisfied with
their jobs and report less organizational citizenship behaviors. Dissatisfied and withdrawn, the IP does not
always move on because leaving seemed too daunting. In their study, Vergauwe et al. (2014) note that
while organizational commitment increased in those with IP tendencies, “It is possible that they are highly
engaged in their job, to prevent them from being exposed as incompetent, which could make their
identification with their organization stronger in the long term” (p.14).
IP and Students
Numerous studies document the prevalence of the Imposter Phenomenon in the both graduate and
undergraduate student populations. At the undergraduate level, IP has been documented across a variety
of majors and disciplines to include psychology (Ferrari & Thompson, 2006), engineering (Felder, 1988),
medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy students (Henning, Ey & Shaw, 1998). Publications discussing IP
at the graduate level can be found regarding students in physician assistant studies (Mattie, Gietzen, Davis
& Prata, 2008; Prata & Gietzen, 2007), psychology (Bernard, Dollinger & Ramaniah, 2002; Castro,
Jones, & Mirasalimi, 2004; Gibson-Beverly & Schwartz, 2008) nurse practitioner (Huffstutler & Varnell,
2006; Sutliff, 1998; Vance, 2002), medical residency (Legassi, Zibrowski, & Goldszmdt, 2008; Oriel,
Plane & Mundt, 2004), molecular biology (Pinker, 2009), and in doctoral programs (Gibson-Beverly &
Schwartz, 2008; Long, Jenkins & Bracken, 2000). As Junia Mason (2009) describes it, “As a doctoral
student in education, there are times when I feel as if I am living in the uncomfortable skin of someone
who is seeking validation for the right to grace the halls of academia” (p.17).
IP impacts not only those who move through college and post graduate work directly out of high
school, but also is an issue for those returning to college. According to Valerie Young (2011) author of
The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, “Impostors who return to college in midlife have been known
to wonder out loud if perhaps their professors aren’t just taking pity on them. Knowing they’re trying to
juggle kids, a job, and school, they suspect that their professors are intentionally going easy on them” (p.
Positive correlations have been documented between IP and academic success (Harvey, 1981;
Thompson, Davis & Davidson, 1998), evaluation anxiety (Cozzarelii & Major, 1990; Cusak, Hughes, &
Nuhu, 2013; Kumar & Jagacinski, 2006; Thompson et al., 1998), neuroticism (Bernard et al., 2002),
achievement orientation (King & Cooley, 1995) and perfectionism (Cusak, et al., 2013; Ferrari &
Thompson, 2006; Leung, 2006). Negative correlations are described between IP and self-esteem (Cusak,
et al., 2013; Kolligan & Sternberg, 1991; Leary, et al., 2000; McElwee & Yurak, 2007), academic self-
efficacy (Thompson, et al., 1998) and academic dishonesty (Ferrari, 2005).
Some might intuit that the fear of failure and high levels of stress caused by the persistent self-doubt
might lead to behaviors linked with cheating. Joseph Ferrari’s (2005) study of 124 undergraduate students
challenges that notion. The author found “…that the academic success of impostors is less likely to be due
to dishonest academic practices” (Ferrari, 2005, p. 16). In the author’s study results demonstrate that it is
the student without imposter tendencies who is more likely to have issues with plagiarism and cheating to
pass exams.
Researchers looking at the relationship between IP and mental health in the student population have
found IP to be a predictor of mental health (Cokely, McClaine, Ensciso, & Martinez, 2013). More
specifically, IP has been positively correlated with anxiety (Clance & O’Toole, 1987; Cromwell et al.,
1990; Cokely et al., 2013; Cusak, et al., 2013; Oriel et al., 2004; Sonnack & Towell, 2001; Thompson et
al., 1998), depression (Austin, Clarke, Ross & Taylor, 2009; Bernard et al., 2002; Clance & Imes, 1978;
Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 16(1) 2016 55
Harvey & Katz, 1985; McGregor et al., 2008; Steinberg, 1987; Thompson, et al., 1998), psychological
distress (Henning et al., 1998) and minority student status stress (Cokely, et al., 2013).
Research indicates that IP scores are higher for students in minority populations as a group. Cokely,
McClain, Enciso and Martinez (2013) designed a study that allowed them to compare IP and Minority
Student Status Stress (MSSS) across a group of students in three distinct minority groups: African
American, Asian, and Latino. While the authors found African American students reported experiencing
the highest level of minority student status stress, imposter feelings were significantly higher for Asian
American students than any other group in the study. In Cokely et al., (2013) found that there was a
strong correlation with both MSSS and IP with psychological stress and psychological well-being for all
three minority groups. Findings demonstrate that it was IP that was the strongest predictor for each. The
authors suggest that, “It is probably the case that ethnic minority students on a predominantly White
campus share an ethnic minority experience that can be stressful” (Cokely, et al., 2013, p. 93). To address
this matter, recommendations are made to counselors working with ethnic minority students to address
the common stressors experienced by individuals who are not a part of the dominant group on campus in
The predictive nature of IP with regard to mental health status in student populations has drawn much
attention recently due to concerns about the rising number of reported suicides on college campuses. In an
effort to keep students safe and boost retention, a number of colleges and universities have developed
programming on IP for students. California Technology and MIT have both instituted programs
debunking myths about belonging, helping students identify IP tendencies, and focusing on support
programming. In a number of colleges, Imposter programming has become a part of orientation events for
undergraduate and graduate students. The offices of student life, academic success, multi-cultural affairs
and counseling have worked to develop workshops for all students helping them to define success,
identify strengths, deal with failures, understand perfectionism and set more reasonable expectations for
themselves (Cokely, et al., 2013).
Similar programs have been developed for faculty and staff. Huffstutler and Varnell (2004) encourage
the development of peer group programming, mentoring opportunities, and identification of
organizational expectations, especially those that produce high levels of anxiety. While IP has become a
topic for orientation workshops focusing on awareness and support, some have built IP discussions
throughout the first year for all new employees with breakout sessions for larger groups
(faculty/staff/graduate assistants). The Center for Creative Leadership has developed a publication titled
Beating the Impostor Syndrome (Mount & Tardanico, 2014) that would serve well as a resource for
orientation workshops. Joyce Roche’s 2013 book, The Empress Has No Clothes and Valerie Young’s
book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women offer perspectives that might resonate with both men and
women. It has been suggested that enhancement of perception of workplace social support can ease some
of the impact of Impostorism (Vergauwe et al., 2014). Other recommendations have included the
implementation of multifaceted structured feedback systems (Cogner & Fulmer, 2004), careful selection
of mentors (Huffstutler & Varnell, 2006; Leung, 2006) and clearly designed expectations with
organizationally appropriate boundaries (Crumpacker & Crumpacker, 2007; Hutchins, 2015; Kets de
Vries, 2005; Vergauwe et al., 2014).
Evidence exists that supports Hutchins (2015) claim that the Impostor Phenomenon is alive and well
on college campuses. While more empirical research is necessary to fully understand IP, particularly with
regard to faculty and staff, there is enough documentation to support the integration of programming on
campus and reflection upon how the academy feeds it. In a blog post, Richard Sigurdson (2008), the Dean
of Arts at the University of Manitoba, encouraged a consideration of how climate and culture on our
56 Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice Vol. 16(1) 2016
campuses might be enhancing IP tendencies in our students, faculty and staff. Dean et al. (2009) point out
that any reflection on culture should begin with the understanding that students, faculty and staff are all
socialized into the academy and as a result culture shapes scholarship and work lives. In a February 2014
blog posted on The Chronicle of Education “The Conversation” webpage, David Leonard notes the
negative impact of culture with regard to IP stating, “It is crucial to note that Impostor Syndrome stems
not just from the mismatch between the representation of an academic and one’s identity, but also from
the daily experiences in which faculty, students, and administrators convey that you don’t belong, or that
you don’t have what it takes”.
The discussion of culture and IP can lead to changes in policy, programming, and campus morale.
These changes have the potential to positively impact the academy’s ability to retain students, staff and
faculty. There is general acceptance that the landscape of higher education is rapidly changing in response
to the tremendous pressures being put upon it to transform in order to survive (Edwards, 2015; Howard,
2015; Potter, 2011). While a healthy debate can be constructed about those pressures and change
initiatives aligned with them, all could agree that anything we can do to retain our best and brightest in the
academy is a worthy cause. Attention to the impostor phenomenon and its impact is a place to start.
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... These thoughts can bring on a state of anxiety that is paralyzing and leads to inaction (Peteet et al., 2015). The other manifestation of imposter phenomenon can lead individuals to work longer, to work harder, and to seek perfection to minimize their stress and anxiety (Parkman, 2016). The author further argued that these tools are the only ones that individuals might feel that they have (Parkman, 2016). ...
... The other manifestation of imposter phenomenon can lead individuals to work longer, to work harder, and to seek perfection to minimize their stress and anxiety (Parkman, 2016). The author further argued that these tools are the only ones that individuals might feel that they have (Parkman, 2016). ...
... The study outcomes indicated that there was correlation between first-generation status and experience of imposter syndrome (Peteet, 2015). The disengagement from academics is in line with Parkman's (2016) view that individuals experiencing imposter phenomenon often demonstrate a decrease in visibility, turn away from support that is offered, and they might withdraw completely. ...
Increasing consensus about the value of a college degree in providing socioeconomic mobility and better health outcomes for communities experiencing poverty has contributed to rising college matriculation rates for first-gen students. One in three students in college are first-gen, yet college completion rates for first-gen students are significantly lower than the national average in the United States (10% versus 60%) (Forrest Cataldi et al., 2018). While there are various factors that contribute to the disparity in graduation outcomes, this dissertation focuses on the role a sense of belonging plays. Research on a sense of belonging has shown that higher rates of belonging are correlated with high academic achievement for all students, and low rates of belonging are particularly detrimental for first-gen students’ academic achievement, which is correlated with graduation outcomes (Gopalan & Brady, 2019). The complex psychological dynamics students experience as they navigate and develop their individual sense of belonging on their campuses warrants further study to better understand the phenomenon (Strayhorn, 2012). The first paper of this two-paper dissertation provides a comprehensive literature review on college outcomes and theories on college student belonging. The second paper presents a qualitative exploratory case study of one first-gen student’s quest to belong on their campus. The case study utilizes a Relational Cultural Theory lens from which to understand and explore the nuanced experiences of belonging that develop as this student navigates their college experience. An analysis of the interview data illustrates several significant themes: an inherent yearning for connection and relationship with others; the critical nature of growth-fostering moments and people; and the active disconnecting from the campus and from others as a strategy for survival, particularly if the yearning for connection and belonging is unmet. These findings have several implications for practice for those working with first-gen students including those in higher education. First, the findings suggest that the sense of disconnection that first-gen students experience can be invisible and hard to gauge from quantitative data alone (class attendance, test scores). Second, belonging often is experienced in phases and cycles and disrupting the cycle of disconnection can be possible through growth-fostering moments. Third, relationships matter, including relationships with peers, faculty, advisors and other staff at colleges that all have the potential to leave an imprint on how a first-gen student negotiates the various emotions of belonging at any given moment.
... Indeed, some facilitators in the present study described such experiences. This supports previous studies which demonstrated that emerging adults and students in higher education are indeed susceptible to imposter phenomenon [46,47]. ...
... This positive shift can be also seen through the lens of the imposter phenomenon. Gaining relevant experience, avoiding exposure to external comparison and evaluation, and self-validation all contribute to diminished imposter feelings [47]. Indeed, facilitators acquired a great deal of knowledge during the project, which enabled them to perceive their peers as well as professional supervisors as non-judgmental sources of assistance, while many of them attempted to be self-validating and less harsh on themselves. ...
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Ample literature exists on the impact of prevention programmes on their target audience, while much less is known about how delivering such programmes influences their facilitators. Even less literature exists on the emotional and social processes that form this potential impact on facilitators. The current study analysed qualitative in-depth, non-structured interviews, as well as written essays provided by 33 student-facilitators who delivered the “Favoring Myself” programme in Israel during 2019–2021. This school-based wellness programme comprised 10 weekly, 90 min sessions on self-care behaviours, media literacy, self-esteem, and positive body image, which are well-known protective factors against risky behaviours. A thematic analysis was applied to explore the main themes in the collected data. An interesting affective transformation from self-doubt to pride in themselves emerged as a shared experience of these young facilitators. Facilitators related their ability to facilitate the programme, as well as to undergo an individual maturation and empowerment experience, to certain components of the programme itself, such as the preparatory course, individual supervision, and the peer-group experience. This shift from doubt to pride is discussed using two frameworks—a theoretical discourse of emerging adulthood as a developmental stage, and the self-determination theory.
... We know that supportive environments and overt information seeking are essential components of GTA assimilation (Myers, 1998), especially as they navigate the stress of conflicting responsibilities associated with their student and instructor roles (Grady et al., 2014;Mazzola et al., 2011). However, GTAs may feel like they need to stay quiet about their work-related stress to maintain credibility (Parkman, 2016). The workplace context is also unique: GTAs are far more dependent on positive relationships with their advisor than those in other professions, as professors both control their graduation timeline and have an outsized impact on their success in the field (Keefer, 2015;Mazzola et al., 2011). ...
... Whereas organizational support may make it easier for GTAs to talk about workrelated stress, impostor syndrome can make it more difficult. People with impostor syndrome attribute their accomplishments to external factors, believing themselves unworthy of recognition or rewards (Parkman, 2016). People with high impostorism tend to lack confidence in their abilities, talk about themselves in more negative terms, and express less optimism about their future performance (Keefer, 2015;Leary et al., 2000). ...
... Ph.D. students may worry about their career uncertainty and their relationship with their supervisor (Sverdlik et al., 2018). In addition, many graduate students experience self-questioning of their aptitude and achievement in academia and are likely to conceive themselves as frauds (Krause & Harris, 2019;Parkman, 2016). The imposter phenomenon is increasingly common in graduate students, and especially so among female students (Gibson-Beverly & Schwartz, 2008;Long et al., 2000). ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone in a significant way. Many graduate students have shifted to work and study remotely, requiring major lifestyle adjustments. An increasing number of studies have explored graduate students' well-being as it relates to their studies from diverse perspectives, including remote learning and loss of peer connections. This article adds the stories of two Ph.D. students' experiences during the pandemic using autobiographical narrative inquiry. Personal tellings and retellings demonstrate the complexity of graduate life and of embracing multiple roles. We encourage a new perception of graduate students as a whole person whose studies are one of many complex factors affecting their well-being. The authors emphasize that graduate student well-being extends beyond academic settings. The study aims to shed light on the wholesomeness of a graduate students' well-being and apply this perspective to the post-pandemic context.
... IS can be pernicious in that educators with specific identities may be more likely to develop persistent imposter syndrome than others. For example, studies examining the effects of this phenomenon among women find that substantial proportions experience imposter thoughts (Clance and O'Toole, 1987;Parkman, 2016;Ladge et al., 2019). Other studies have found varied differences in the prevalence of IS when comparing racial minority and majority groups (see Bravata et al., 2020, for a review), including the extent to which racial minority group membership may predispose or be a risk factor for early-career educators in developing imposter syndrome. ...
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This study examined the prevalence and impact of imposter syndrome (IS) on a sample of pre-service educators. We report a majority of pre-service educators experience IS; 93% experience moderate levels and 54% had frequent or severe levels of imposter thoughts, and further that IS was negatively associated with educator well-being. We also investigated the effects of minority group membership on experiences of IS, and found that IS was more severe for women and queer minorities, but less severe for racial minorities. Lastly, we investigated the potential for healthy emotion regulation to mitigate the effects of IS on pre-service educator well-being and found that adaptive emotion regulation strategy use mitigates the effects of IS, which may provide a viable means for addressing this pervasive issue among educators, and specifically among those with minoritized identities. We discuss the implications of our findings for educational training and improving the experiences of pre-service educators.
... Studies, as well as lived experiences, have revealed a range of bias patterns marginalized individuals experience in daily interactions, including microaggressions [107][108][109], unequal expectations related to service work [excessive service work load expected from, e.g., African American women faculty, 110], stereotype threat [111], and imposter syndrome [112]. Marginalized individuals have described difficulties with informal networking and developing beneficial career connections [113,114], which has also been studied in literature [115,116]. ...
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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) are not only called for to ensure morality and justice in our society, they also support ongoing and future excellence in particle physics. Over the past decade, the particle physics community has devised programs to support DEIA along multiple axes, and the way we think about measuring and implementing these initiatives has evolved. DEIA in physics is a broad topic, so in this paper we focus on the experiences of marginalized communities and outline ways different stakeholders can build a culture of equitable access for the success of marginalized individuals. Specifically, we identify urgent needs in the following areas: (1) We need to acquire a better understanding of the status quo, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to assess the effectiveness of existing programs and to develop best practices; (2) we need to develop effective and inclusive ways to engage marginalized communities; (3) we need to create infrastructure to better support members of marginalized communities, on an academic, financial and personal level; (4) we need to create an environment conducive to equitable access and success by establishing community expectations, fostering inclusion in social interactions, and holding individuals and institutions accountable; and (5) we need to establish a mechanism to monitor progress in the area of DEIA, including the implementation of the recommendations enumerated in this paper and others during the Snowmass 2021 process.
Background: The primary purpose of this study was to understand veterinary students' views on the described key surgical entrustable professional activities (EPAs) and to understand how COVID-19 restrictions have impacted their clinical skill and competence development. Methods: Final-year veterinary students at a single institute completed a web-based survey distributed by email. The survey aimed to characterise five constructs regarding EPAs, and a specific five-point Likert-like scale was created asking explicitly worded questions for each construct. Results: One hundred and ten students responded. The cohort agreed that the previously described key surgical EPAs were clinically important and relevant, but over 50% of the respondents felt that they had no substantial experience with them and were not confident or comfortable performing them. Additionally, most students (95%) felt their clinical development was negatively impacted by COVID-19. Conclusions: The results of this study show that the key EPAs proposed are considered important skills by the undergraduate cohort described and that experience levels when entering the final year are lacking, potentially due to reduced exposure to clinical cases influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Workplace wellness has been extensively researched in various domains of social sciences, both intra- and inter-disciplinary. This highlights the significance of the concept ‘workplace wellness' as it not only influences the outcome of an organization and reduces the turnover rates, but also looks into the well-being of employees. There is a substantial increase in the number of married women entering the workforce which has led to a rise in dual-career families. With the increase in employment, female employees encounter numerous challenges in maintaining workplace wellness such as physical, psychological, or social impediments. This chapter looks at the psychological barriers that young married women experience with regard to workplace wellness in the context of higher education in India. Factors such as burnout, family-work conflict, work-family conflict, career-marriage conflict, implicit bias, workplace violence, imposter syndrome, mental load, compassion fatigue, etc. are some of the major barriers.
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The authors of this paper take a critical approach within ethnographic narrative to explore issues of power, class and agency in their experiences as working class women in the academe. After first revealing their working class roots through personal narratives, they employ Clance's Impostor Phenomenon to explore and discuss their experiences as working-class women within the Scared Grove of the academe. Results seem to indicate a dichotomy between their working class values and the expectations of university academics. Results also reveal that men faculty are their current allies, indicating that, for these three working class women in the academe, class is more of an issue than gender. The researchers conclude that they are negotiating the impostor phenomenon while accepting their outsider status. Suggestions for further research are included.
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In the Impostor Phenomenon, people experience feelings of inadequacy and fraudulence. Although theory predicts that impostors should report that others view them more positively than they view themselves, recent research has failed to support this hypothesis and suggests instead that impostorism may be used as a self-diminishing self-presentation strategy. In the present work, 253 students completed questionnaires including three measures of self-and reflected appraisals and several measures of affect and self-presentation. Results support previous research indicating that while impostors report feeling inadequate, they do not actually feel fraudulent: They do not believe that others view them more positively than they view themselves. Additionally, multidimensional scaling and correlational analyses investigate whether impostorism operates as a more controlled or automatic self-presentation strategy. Implications for conceptualizing and measuring the experience of impostorism are discussed.
The smile is a universally recognized facial expression generally associated with happiness. However, this may not always be the case and discerning the difference is surprisingly difficult. Enjoyment smiles involve the involuntary contraction of the orbicularis oculi, which lifts the cheeks and narrows the eyes, and the zygomaticus major, which raises the lip corners. Nonenjoyment smiles only use the zygomaticus major (Frank & Ekman, 1993). In the current study, participants watched Facial Action Coding System (FACS) coded videos of smiles and were asked whether they believed the smiles were real or fake. Tobii X120 eye-tracking software was used to determine the most focused upon facial muscle when interpreting the smiles. It was estimated that the majority of participants would perform at a level slightly above chance, achieve an average of 60% accuracy, and pay most attention to the zygomaticus major (Ekman & Friesen, 1982; Frank, Ekman & Friesen, 1993). Results indicated that the majority of the participants performed significantly above chance, with an average 65% accuracy, and focused on the orbicularis oculi. These findings suggest that the ability to detect smiles is increasing and people tend to look at the eyes rather than the mouth during a smile.
Due to the newer nature of this subfield of librarianship and the lack of formal technical training experienced by a number of systems librarians, many feel needlessly inadequate in their positions. An understanding of the importance of a library background and skills in the success of any systems librarian can help these individuals overcome their "imposter syndrome" and settle more comfortably into their positions.