#ATTI80: Baxter Magolda

Well, last week was quite an emotional and busy week, so I had to take a break from the #ATTI80 Journey to process Orlando and also celebrate my fraternity brother’s wedding. However, I’m back at it, and this week we have the ever fabulous Theory of Self Authorship by Marcia Baxter Magolda!

So as it is with each time, a little background!

Marcia Baxter Magolda is an Ohioan through and through. Having been born and raised in the Buckeye State, she has served her professional career at multiple institutions within the state. She published her first book in 1988, Assessing intellectual development: The link between theory and practice. 

The Theory of Self-Authorship like many can be seen as a journey. However, the Baxter Magolda theory of self-authorship is limited to an individual’s formidable 20s and 30s. Through following 101 Miami University students through college and for decades after, she formulated her theory.

The theory is comprised of four phases which are built upon the questions of:

  • How do I know?
  • Who am I?
  • How do I construct my relationships with others?

The four phases are as follows:

Phase 1: Follow formulas: Making decisions based upon parents, teachers, peers, and other in authority who you lean on to help guide you through life.

Phase 2: Crossroads: Points at which making decisions based on others is conflicting with one’s own beliefs and decision making process.

This can be broken down even further:

  • Listening to your internal voice: Learning to listen to your own voice and begin recognizing your own decisions vs others.
  • Cultivating your internal voice: Learning to define and organize your voice according to your beliefs and processes.

Phase 3: Becoming the author of one’s life: Making decisions based on your own decisions.

This can be broken down further:

  • Trusting your internal voice: Having the confidence to lean on your own voice, beliefs etc, to make decisions for your life. Taking control of your reactions to situations.
  • Building internal commitments: Creating internal maps and plans for one self to use as a guide for action.
  • Securing internal commitments: Executing one’s internal commitments.

Phase 4: Self-Transformation: Having had traversed the journey and are able to make decisions and process life according to one’s own beliefs and foundations.


So what’s this look like? I’ll use my own process through this since this is a very personal process one goes through:

Phase 1: Follow formulas: Entering college I based my decisions, identities, thoughts, beliefs, and understandings of the world on my parents. Because of that, some of my former identities included:

  • Straight
  • Republican
  • Conservative

Phase 2: Crossroads: During college, my desired sexual orientation identity began to combat with what I had been raised as. My political views that I had created based on my parents perspectives no longer were justifiable in my mind. I began experimenting and finding/building my own voice to use to make decisions and life choices.

Phase 3: Becoming the author of one’s life: This didn’t start until after I was kicked out of my home for exploring my sexual orientation. But looking back, that was the point I started to rely on my own life experiences and views to make decisions. I began organizing and separating my voice from my parents. Now, many decisions I made were not good decisions, but I was definitely beginning to make them based on my own tumultuous internal voice

Phase 4: Self-Transformation: I don’t think I reached this phase until a few years ago, when I could firmly stand on my own internal foundations and make decisions that weighted the good and bad based upon my own voice and own perspectives. It’s when I decided to go to Grad School and take ownership of the choices I made in life and to rely on my own voice to guide me.

So, this is how I have processed and interpreted the Baxter Magolda Theory of Self-Authorship. hope it helps you understand this theory a little bit and maybe even a little bit more of your own personal journey!

Have you advised a student through this? Or have you identified this in your own life? 

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!



Baxter Magolda, Marcia B. (2009). Authoring your life. Sterling. VA: Stylus Publishing.

Evans, Nancy J., et al. (2010). Chapter ten: Development of self-authorship. Student development in college: theory, research and practice (ed. 2, pp. 183-193). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.


Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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