Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. John R. Thelin


Beginning in the early 1960s, the movement for the continuing education for women (CEW) brought together a seemingly unlikely alliance of American activists, educators, philanthropists, and government agencies. Fueled by philanthropic funds, accelerated by the quest for “womanpower” to bolster national defense, and aligned with regional workforce needs as well as the personal goals of individual women, CEW programs pioneered new models of academic advising and student support that continue to influence higher education practitioners today. By studying the experiences of both administrators and students involved with CEW at the University of Kentucky, this study sheds light on how one land-grant university in the south adapted the principles of CEW to serve institutional goals and student needs. Furthermore, this study picks up where many others leave off—in the second half of the 1960s—and is inclusive of the entire 1970s and most of the 1980s. This is significant because the UK program—like others founded around the same time—experienced its greatest periods of growth and activity during the 1970s, when state-aligned labor initiatives intersected with women’s liberationist activism on campus. The central question of this study is “What place does UK CEW hold in the national history of women’s continuing education?” Sub-questions include “How did CEW at UK differ from or align with CEW programs at comparable institutions?” and “In what ways did CEW at UK adapt national models to suit local cultural, economic, and political imperatives?” This study begins from the hypothesis that CEW at UK—while aiming to fulfill many of the same goals as earlier CEW programs at comparable large, public universities—did so with significant adaptations necessitated by the local and regional environment. This study draws upon primary sources, including correspondence, budgets, proposals, survey responses, enrollment data, marketing collateral, contemporaneous newspapers and magazines, meeting minutes, and extant oral histories. Unfortunately, it is difficult from existing records to determine the positionality of CEW participants and administrators vis a vis the intersections of class, race, and sexual orientation. Aside from some materials directly dealing with student financial need, as well as indications of at least a few efforts to recruit African American women to the CEW program, the archive does not lend itself immediately to understanding the involvement of or impact on various demographic groups of women. This dissertation offers one example of how a CEW program was adapted from a national model pioneered at the University of Minnesota to function in a specific time and place: Kentucky in the 1960s through 1980s. It is the nature and mechanism of this adaptation that may prove instructive to present and future higher education leaders.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by the University of Kentucky College of Education Edgar L. and Marilyn A. Sagan Fellowship in 2021.