Announcement of Ed.D. Dissertation Defense Stacey Lynn Kohler: “Persistence Personified: Understanding the Experiences of Female First Generation Doctoral Students”
The challenges facing first-generation college students are well-documented in the literature, but interestingly, outcomes-based literature for this population is limited. Overall, first-generation college graduates are less likely to enroll in graduate study. Specifically, female first-generation college graduates are less likely than males and female continuing-generation college graduates to enroll in doctoral programs (Nettles & Millett, 2006; Holley & Gardner, 2012). Further limited research is available that describes the experiences of female first-generation college graduates that have navigated the educational pipeline to the doctorate. Using theories related to social and cultural capital and graduate student socialization processes as a framework, this study demonstrates how female first-generation doctoral students continue to accrue the necessary forms of capital throughout their educational journeys. A narrative inquiry approach was used to answer the following research questions: (1) What are the experiences of female first-generation students in their doctoral programs? (2) How do female first-generation doctoral students accrue the capital necessary to navigate the demands of doctoral studies to become scholars and practitioners? (3) How do female first-generation doctoral students describe the socialization processes of their respective programs? The experiences of participants were marked by an initial Difficult Adjustment to Doctoral Program (Theme 1) and largely described as Emotional Experience (Theme 2). Participants shared stories of Grit and Perseverance (Theme 3) by overcoming obstacles throughout the course of their studies. Participants chronicled how they were able to accrue capital by Relying on Resourcefulness (Theme 4) and Building a Network of Support (Theme 5), fostering resiliency and drive to persist towards degree completion. Themes emerged indicating the importance of Relationships with Advisors/Chairs/PIs (Theme 6), Sense of Belonging/Community (Theme 7), Overcoming Imposter Syndrome (Theme 8) as integral components of socialization processes for female first-generation doctoral students. Results inform future research and faculty that work with first-generation doctoral students.
Keywords: First-generation, Doctoral Students, Socialization, Social Capital, Cultural Capital, Sense of Belonging, Imposter Syndrome
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