Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2018

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Nathan Stormer

Second Committee Member

Liliana Herakova

Third Committee Member

Laura Lindenfeld

Additional Committee Members

David Carlone

Ian Mette

Catharine Biddle


Higher education institutions face two concurrent demands: preparing students for the job-market, while also developing informed and engaged citizens (Frey & Palmer, 2014; Gould, 2003). How universities reconcile these demands varies. The Innovation Engineering program (IE) at the University of Maine strives to both, “change the world by enabling innovation” (concern for social issues) and educate entrepreneurs (students) whose innovations reach markets quicker and at a decreased risk (capitalist orientation) (Hall, 2013; Kelly, 2014). The program uses a systems approach to innovation by teaching tools and methods for creating, communicating, and commercializing meaningfully unique ideas. Processes and contexts are important parts of a systems approach, yet within this program there is not a clear articulation of the various processes and cultural ideologies and contexts that enable or discourage particular orientations to communication, innovation and social change. This dissertation is a critical qualitative case study of one Social Entrepreneurship program (SE) – the IE program at the University of Maine. This critical case study aims to better understand such processes and contexts through a focus on the meanings and practices of communication and social change as they are taught and experienced in IE. In this study, I use articulation analysis (Hall, 1985; 1989) to expose the dominant cultural and ideological discourses embedded within IE’s program documents. Additionally, I use relational dialectic theory (Baxter, 2011; Baxter & Montgomery, 1996) to describe the discursive struggles and cultural ideologies embedded within the co-participants experiences. Finally, I employ critical communication pedagogy (Fassett & Warren, 2007) to evaluate the descriptions of the discursive struggles and cultural ideologies and discourses that emerged. I find that two dominant discursive struggles emerged: integration-separation and dissemination-dialogue. I also find that although IE fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, the program privileges neoliberal values where the autonomous individual is prioritized. Based on the results of this dissertation, I propose a critical social entrepreneurship education model for the IE and other SE programs to consider embracing in order to reconcile the two demands of higher education of preparing students for the job-market and developing agents of social change.