Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Angela S. Jacobs


Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead states, "Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional" (p. 2). The purpose of this study is to examine student-instructor negotiations of vulnerability via acts of self-disclosure both inside and outside of the classroom. For the traditional student, college is a transitional period that prove challenging, leaving one feeling vulnerable. This study offers a unique perspective of vulnerability and expands our limited knowledge on how vulnerable self-expression manifests within institutions for higher learning. I analyzed existing literature surrounding vulnerability to help guide my research. The literature includes topics such as communication apprehension, self-disclosure, authenticity and personhood, empathic responsiveness, and communication beyond the classroom. For this study, I utilize grounded theory to uncover greater insight on student-instructor negotiations of vulnerability. Throughout the coding process, I found three emergent themes: (1) vulnerability is a process, (2) vulnerability as a pathway to connection, and (3) vulnerability invites vulnerability.