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Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Terrence A. Tollefson

Committee Members

Elwood D. Watson, Eric S. Glover, Jasmine R. Renner


In this study the researcher's intent was to examine the initial academic goals and objectives of successful adult-degree completers in 4 baccalaureate-degree programs at East Tennessee State University. Although there has been much written about adult motivation to re-enter formal education, there have been few studies of adult students' goals as they entered degree-completion programs. The purpose of this study was to provide a framework for the understanding of the academic goals and objectives expressed by adult students as they were starting to return to college. Research questions that guided the study included exploration of student goals and objectives, an examination of differences among adult students' statements with regard to age, ethnicity, or gender, and an examination of differences in those statements of goals and objectives written over a range of years. An open an axial coding method was developed to analyze 637 statements written by degree-completion students who graduated between 1999 and 2008. Seven themes emerged among students' essays that describe those students' motivations to re-enter the university and their goals at the point of entry to those degree programs. First, students indicated they wanted to earn degrees. Second, some students identified trigger events that had prompted their return to the university. The third theme included professional goals and motivators that were included in students' statements of goals and objectives. Fourth, students cited personal motivators and goals for completing their undergraduate degrees. Fifth, students wrote about institutional barriers that led them to choose a degree-completion program over a more traditional model. Sixth, students wrote about attractive features of their respective adult-degree-completion programs. Seventh, students placed their learning in the context of a broader commitment to lifelong learning.

Document Type

Dissertation - restricted


Copyright by the authors.