Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Catherine H. Glascock

Committee Members

Eric S. Glover, Jasmine R. Renner, Joseph D. Sobol


This study was designed to investigate Southern Appalachian, first-generation students' expectations of higher education. Research indicates that many first-generation students drop out of college after only 1 semester; however, little research exists concerning the expectations and experiences of first-generation college students from Southern Appalachia.

The study employs a qualitative methodology based in the tradition of grounded theory to highlight students' experiences while encouraging the emergence of data-driven theory based on what the researcher heard. Thus, the entire study is couched in the interpretivist philosophy of research.

Eleven full-time university students were interviewed for the study. They were asked to identify their perceptions of college and the effect of parents, friends, and culture on their decision to attend college. Students talked about their life goals and how a university education has helped them move toward those goals. Ultimately, students commented on the transformational aspects of higher education in their lives and how they have begun a life journey that will transform their lives for the better.

The primary significance of this study lies in the fact that it addresses first-generation students from Southern Appalachia, a group of students that has been ignored by most research dealing with the issue of first-generation students generally. This study highlights issues related to first-generation students' college experiences and how institutions of higher education might better serve those students and keep them engaged in the educational process through to graduation.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.