DISSERTATION DEFENSE ANNOUNCEMENT Ph.D. in Higher Education Program: Gina Tigri “Becoming a College Student: Exploring How Classroom Experiences Shape First-Year, First-Generation Students’ Transitions into University Life”

10:00 am - 11:00 am

The first year of college is a critical time for students, as their early experiences can determine the path of their educational journey. Students are most at-risk for dropping out from college during their first year, and first-generation students have higher rates of departure than their continuing-generation peers. Student engagement, sense of belonging, and identity development have all been identified as important factors in supporting retention and enhancing the first-year experience. However, little research explores the interdependent nature of these various aspects of student life. This qualitative case study offers a new way of conceptualizing first-year transitions into university life using a Communities of Practice (CoP) theoretical framework. CoP theory is a theory of social learning that emphasizes the intersections of participation, identity, and belonging in a learning community. Guided by this theoretical framework, this study explored how learning experiences in college courses impact first-year, first-generation students’ engagement, sense of belonging, and identity development, and the ways in which these factors influence their trajectories in college. Findings from this study demonstrate the first-year seminar courses offered five types of resources that shape students’ experiences and development including Practical Support Resources, Relational Resources, Participatory Learning Resources, Narrative Resources, and Imagination Resources.

To access the Zoom link required to attend, please contact academic.services@gse.rutgers.edu.