Better Together: The Role of Critical Friendship in Empowering Early Career Academics


  • Courtney A. Brewer Western University
  • Taunya Wideman-Johnston Western University
  • Mike McCabe Nipissing University



Starting a career in academia is often fraught with uncertainty, turbulence, and isolation, as aspiring professors manage multiple, often contract-based roles in order to advance their curriculum vitae and secure a livelihood. In this research study, we use narrative inquiry to illuminate the role our critical friendship has played in our academic experience. Turning to the ethic of care (Noddings, 2006) as a theoretical and conceptual framework, we reveal to ourselves, and to the academic landscape, the common themes that contextualize academia for emerging scholars, including seeking employment, managing our roles as graduate students, dealing with tensions in the workplace, and managing the logistics of personal life events as they pertain to the workplace. The ethic of care was steeped into the continued development of each cyclical phase of our critical friendship (Wideman-Johnston & Brewer, 2014). Furthermore, our critical friendship provided empowerment, an overarching theme in our data, as we engaged with the joys and pains of being emerging academics through continued unguarded conversations (Baskerville & Goldblatt, 2009; Wideman-Johnston & Brewer, 2014). As our critical friendship grew more trusting and empowering, the fulfillment of “natural care” (Noddings, 2006) was realized. We share our findings to offer a new way forward, whereby authentic critical friendships provide the care necessary to empowering emerging academics. 

Keywords: Critical friendship; emerging academic; narrative inquiry; ethic of care; incivility; precarious academic.