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A Guide to the Research: Graduate Students

Presents research literature and other sources of information about first generation college students, focusing on four-year undergraduate and graduate school experiences.

Recently Added

* Gardner, Susan K., "The Challenges of First-Generation Doctoral Students" in Increasing Diversity in Doctoral Education: Implications for Theory and Practice,  Karri A. Holley and Joretta Joseph, eds. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013. Available in the Education Library: LB2331.72 .N48 no. 163.
By supporting graduate diversity across the academic disciplines, universities ensure that the nation's intellectual capacities and opportunities are fully realized. The authors of this volume consider diversity broadly from multiple perspectives, from race and ethnicity to institutional type, academic discipline, and national origin.

* Restad, Cristina, Beyond the Program Year: [Graduate] Students' Understanding of How McNair Scholars Program Participation Impacts Their Experiences in Graduate School, PSU McNair Scholars Online Journal, Vol. 7, issue 1 (2013).
The Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program‘s goal is to introduce first-generation, low-income, underrepresented group college students to effective strategies for succeeding in graduate programs. This interview study explores McNair graduates understandings of issues they face in adjusting to graduate school and how McNair participation prepared them for addressing these issues.

* Viaud, Karina M. Pursuing the Doctoral Degree: A Symbolic Interpretation of First-Generation African American/Black and Hispanic Doctoral Students. Dissertation. California State University San Marcos.; College of Education, Health and Human Services, 2014. 227 pages.
Completion rate for a doctoral degree is much lower for African Americans/Blacks and Hispanics who are largely represented as first-generation. First-generation African Americans/Blacks and Hispanics have been reported as less likely to pursue a doctoral degree, and their experiences in the doctoral program have been less documented. The study was a qualitative narrative inquiry in which experiences turned into stories were told by four first-generation African Americans/Blacks and Hispanics pursuing their doctoral degree in Education.

* Viray, Sydnee. Writing from My Inside to My Outside: a First Generation College Student's Book Writing Journey Using Scholarly Personal Narrative and Social Work Concepts. Thesis. School of Education, University of Vermont, 2013. Requires Interlibrary Loan.
Sydnee Viray co-authored Our Stories Matter: Liberating the Voices of Marginalized Students Using Scholarly Personal Narrative Writing as a graduate student completing her Master of Education degree while working full-time at her University's Student Financial Services office. Using Scholarly Personal Narrative (SPN) as a research method, she suggests that SPN employs validation, empowerment, and pragmatically applied ethical tools that endow students with the privilege and honor of authorship leveraging her/his own personal narratives. Her thesis is a postmodern and constructivist research document that recognizes the researcher's personal experience (written as a scholarly personal narrative) as a valid object of study.

Graduate Students

* Anderson, Michelle D. University of Texas Program Demystifies Graduate School for Minority Students, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, vol. 25, issue 15 (September 4, 2008) p. 10.
Intellectual Entrepreneurship: A Cross-Disciplinary Consortium is a University of Texas program that introduces diverse students to graduate work. Attracting a significant number of underrepresented minority and first-generation students, the program enables undergraduates to work closely with graduate student mentors and faculty supervisors to develop their own research experience.

* Banks, Mata J. In Pursuit of the Ed.D.: A Study of East Tennessee State University's Doctors of Education - Who They Are and Why They Persisted. Dissertation, Educational Leadership Dept., East Tennessee State University, 2006.
According to Kerlin (1995a), first-generation students are not expected to survive to doctorate degree attainment because of vulnerability to negative affects associated with their status. It was the intent of this study to offer additional empirical research toward understanding variables associated with first-generation persistence as encountered by East Tennessee State University’s Doctors of education.

* Chase, Sarah M. First-generation faculty: A phenomenological exploration of their motivations for mentoring first-generation students. University of Northern Colorado, 2010, 219 pages.
Institutions of higher education can create more welcoming and success-promoting environments for first-generation students by helping them connect with faculty, particularly through mentoring relationships. This research explored the motivations of faculty from first-generation backgrounds who mentored first-generation college students within the federally-funded Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. The five primary themes include: illustrations of teaching and mentoring, first-generation status, inspirations for mentoring, strategies for mentoring, and challenges in academe.

* Danley, Lynette Letricia. Truths about Sojourner: African-American women and the professorship. Their struggles and their successes on negotiating promotion and tenure at a predominantly White institution. Iowa State University, 2003, 304 pages.
The primary purpose of this investigation was to explore the internal and external factors that contributed to the successful negotiation of promotion and tenure for six African American female faculty members at a selected predominantly White Doctoral Extensive Institution. Factors including individual persistence and aspiration as well as the need for institutional support continued to emerge particularly for the respondents who decided to pursue the life of academics. Survey results found that successfully navigating the promotion and tenure process for African American women depend not only on research, teaching, and service but other factors including graduate school preparation, mentoring, internal and external motivation, self-identity, spirituality, and personal commitment to serving as change agents for campus equality.

* Gardner, Susan K., "The Challenges of First-Generation Doctoral Students" in Increasing Diversity in Doctoral Education: Implications for Theory and Practice,  Karri A. Holley and Joretta Joseph, eds. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013. Available in the Education Library: LB2331.72 .N48 no. 163.
By supporting graduate diversity across the academic disciplines, universities ensure that the nation's intellectual capacities and opportunities are fully realized. The authors of this volume consider diversity broadly from multiple perspectives, from race and ethnicity to institutional type, academic discipline, and national origin.

* Hicks, Randall, "I'll Break His Goddamned Hands," Academe, vol. 95, issue 3 (May-Jun 2009), pp. 16-18. 
This year, the author embarked on a tenure-track appointment as a chemistry professor. He considers himself very fortunate. The author's own experience leads him to believe that precious few first-generation students ultimately become chemistry professors. His hunch is confirmed by the National Opinion Research Center's recent Survey of Earned Doctorates. Of the 43,354 doctoral degrees granted in 2005, only 1,776 were conferred upon recipients in the physical sciences who reported that they had employment commitments The author can only hypothesize that one reason for the small number of first-generation science doctorates is that the personal experiences of others have been similar to what he encountered.

* Holley, Karri A. and Susan Gardner. "Navigating the Pipeline: How Socio-Cultural Influences Impact First-Generation Doctoral Students," Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, vol. 5, issue 2 (Jun 2012), pp. 112-121.
First-generation college students constitute one third of doctoral degree recipients in the United States, yet little is known about their graduate school experience. Social capital and reproduction theory offer insight into the relationship between individual mobility and social structures, while the concept of intersectionality emphasizes the multiple characteristics of individual identity. Through interviews with 20 first-generation doctoral students, this article considers the role of the discipline, the institution, finances, and family in the graduate school experience. 

* Hurley, Pamela S. Comparing the graduate degree choices and influences of first-generation college students and children of college graduates. University of California, Los Angeles, 2002, 136 pages.
Explores the effect of being a first-generation college student on individuals' self-selection into specific advanced degree pathways, among students who had undertaken graduate study by nine years after entering college. Educational aspirations, as well as specific activities, goals, self-perceptions and views are included in the analysis. This study utilizes a sample of students who participated in the 1985 CIRP Freshman Survey, 1989 and 1994 Follow-Up Surveys.  The results confirm the importance of early intervention in developing doctoral students from among FGC students.

* Ishiyama, John T. and Valerie M. Hopkins. Assessing the Impact of a Graduate School Preparation Program on First-Generation, Low-Income College Students at a Public Liberal Arts University, Journal of College Student Retention, vol. 4, issue 4 (2002/2003), pp. 393-405.
Examines the impact of the federal Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program on first-generation low-income (FGLI) college students. Data were obtained from 70 FGLI program participants and 204 FGLI nonparticipants who entered Missouri's Truman State University in the period 1992–1998. Results revealed that FGLI program participants were much more likely than FGLI nonparticipants to be retained at the university and to succeed in terms of timely graduation and graduate school placement, even when controlling for ambition and academic ability.

* LePage-Lees, Pamela. From Disadvantaged Girls to Successful Women: Education and Women's Resiliency. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1997. Shelved in the Education Library, call #: LC4091 .L47 1997.
This book is the result of a 2-year study of women who were disadvantaged as girls but who achieved highly in academics. The participants, all of whom had advanced degrees or had completed two years of graduate school, had been raised in low-income homes, were first-generation college students, and had faced stress as children. Information about the 21 participants was collected through individual in-depth interviews, questionnaires, and school records. It appears that these women achieved academically because they adapted and assimilated to the majority culture. They hid who they were because they believed that their backgrounds reflected on them negatively. 

* Lester, James G. Exploring the Pathways to the Professoriate Taken by First Generation College Students. Dissertation, Higher Education, Ohio University, 2011.
Students who are ethnic minorities, come from low-income families, and whose parents have not earned a college degree (first generation students) are less likely to matriculate and earn a Baccalaureate degree than Caucasian students, more affluent students, and those whose parents who hold an undergraduate degree. This disparity is even more pronounced in graduate education and leads to an inevitable underrepresentation of first generation students in the professoriate, where a master's degree or a doctorate is almost universally required. This research explored the supports and obstacles encountered by first generation college students who elect to pursue careers in the professoriate.

* Malmberg, Erik Davin. Factors affecting success of first-year Hispanic students enrolled in a public law school. The University of Texas at Austin, 2008, 389 pages.
The purpose of this study was to determine which variables from commonly accepted foundational theories on higher education retention, attrition, and student development are applicable to the first-year experiences of Hispanic students enrolled in a Juris Doctorate Program at an accredited law school at a public institution who are the first in their family to attend. Using both a survey instrument and narrative interviews, the study revealed that first-generation Hispanic students are disadvantaged compared to their peers when it came to understanding important law school financial, cultural, and academic issues. While family support, faculty relationships, law school study/support groups, academic mentoring, and academic advising positively influenced first-year progress; the respondents' cultural identity and race negatively impacted faculty and peer interactions both in and out of the classroom.

* McCall, Ryan W. Beyond the Undergraduate: Factors Influencing First–Generation Student Enrollment in and Completion of Graduate Education. Dissertation, Higher Education, Ohio University, 2007.
This study was designed to determine if barriers that influence first-generation student enrollment in and completion of undergraduate education have a similar influence on first-generation student enrollment in and completion of graduate education. To accomplish this three student groups were selected: (a) first-generation non-graduate, (b) first-generation graduate, and (c) continuing-generation graduate. Three categories of variables were utilized for the analysis and they were (a) educational background, (b) socioeconomic status, and (c) total undergraduate debt. The study data came from secondary analysis of Baccalaureate and Beyond 1993/2003 (B&B:93/03).

* Meetze, Tracy E. Factors contributing to first-generation college student success. University of South Carolina, 2006, 63 pages.
The purpose of this study is to examine factors that influence first-generation college student success in the postsecondary setting. Four research questions guided the study: (1) How do the characteristics of the family shape first-generation college student success in the postsecondary setting? (2) How do the personal characteristics of first-generation college students shape their success in the postsecondary setting? (3) How do the characteristics of peers and peer groups shape first-generation college student success in the postsecondary setting? (4) How do the characteristics of postsecondary institutions shape first-generation college student success in the postsecondary setting? Data sources for the study included surveys and interviews. Survey data were collected and analyzed statistically and interview data were collected, transcribed, and coded for patterns and themes. The interview data were then used to support findings from the survey data. There were several findings in the study. The influence of family is present for students throughout their lives. The most important factor of family influence is the effect the level of education of both the mother and father has on the success of first-generation college students. When first-generation college students enter primary school, specific patterns of the structure of schooling begin to influence their college success. Tracking is one of the structures established in elementary and secondary schools that influences this long-term success. Intertwined with the influence of tracking is the influence of peers. Tracking often forms peer groups and differentiates between those who will go to college and those who will not. Finally, at the college and university level, the most influential factor is the mentoring experience provided during the attainment of a Doctorate Degree

* Nilsen, Andrea Rose-Anne. The tenacious women of La Verne: A case study of factors that enabled resilient doctoral students from nontraditional backgrounds to overcome adversity and meet their goals. University of La Verne, 2004, 534 pages.
The purpose of this study was to identify factors that previously disadvantaged, successful women perceived as important in fostering their resiliency, enabling them to rebound from adversity and lead successful lives while fulfilling personal and professional goals. The population consisted of the women enrolled in the University of La Verne's doctoral program in Organizational Leadership. Women were identified for inclusion in this study if they met at least two of the following three criteria: (1) first-generation college graduates, (2) from working-class families that experienced financial challenges, and/or (3) experienced one or more types of familiar dysfunction or traumatic stress. The following commonalities emerged from the study population: (1) had families who were significant supporters of their quests for education, (2) believed in a higher power, (3) had a sense of purpose in life, (4) had professors who served as mentors during their graduate school years, (5) had viewed obstacles as challenges, and (6) gave back to their communities and others.

* Overton-Healy, Julia, First-Generation College Seniors: A Phenomenological Exploration of the Transitional Experience of the Final College Year, Dissertation, Dept. of Education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 2010.
This study investigated the transitional experience of college seniors who are also first-generation status. The Adult Transition Theory (Schlossberg, 1984) was used as the theoretical framework. A phenomenological approach was used, and the data collection incorporated individual and dyadic (two-interviewee) interviews. Data were analyzed using horizontalization, semantic repetitions, and frequency counting, resulting in the identification of organizing themes. Results indicate that certain archetypal experiences exist which help to define the transitional experience for this population and included (1) receiving institutional and formal communications regarding commencement; (2) engaging in focused post-college pursuits; and (3) changing personal relationships. It was also discovered certain mechanisms were used to make meaning of the phenomenon, such as (1) closure behaviors, (2) acknowledging emotions, (3) changing self label or identity, and (4) assuming a leadership role in the family.

* Patton, Stacey. "Here's Smarty-Pants, Home for the Holidays," Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 59, Issue 15 (12/7/2012), p. 16.
Besides having to deal with academic demands, many graduate students from working-class backgrounds feel like strangers in their own families during the holidays. Tensions, misunderstandings, and awkwardness can leave them torn between cultures and identities, amid family members who are envious or angry that their loved one has gone off and come back changed.

* Restad, Cristina, Beyond the Program Year: [Graduate] Students' Understanding of How McNair Scholars Program Participation Impacts Their Experiences in Graduate SchoolPSU McNair Scholars Online Journal, Vol. 7, issue 1 (2013).
The Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program‘s goal is to introduce first-generation, low-income, underrepresented group college students to effective strategies for succeeding in graduate programs. This interview study explores McNair graduates understandings of issues they face in adjusting to graduate school and how McNair participation prepared them for addressing these issues.

* Thomas, Earl Preston. Taking the First Steps toward Graduate Education: A Report on the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, 1994. 50 pp.
This paper examines the diverse group of students in the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program at the New Brunswick/Piscataway campuses of Rutgers University. This program identifies, recruits, prepares, and assists academically talented, first-generation, low-income, and traditionally underrepresented minority college students (sophomores, juniors, or seniors) and encourages them to enter programs that lead to doctoral degrees. Students are given intensive preparation for graduate school, including mentoring relationships with outstanding faculty, long-term research internships, continuous advisement, preparation for the Graduate Record Examination, acclimation to graduate school life and the academic department environment, and assistance with graduate school admissions. The report finds that the program has been extraordinarily successful.

* Viaud, Karina M. Pursuing the Doctoral Degree: A Symbolic Interpretation of First-Generation African American/Black and Hispanic Doctoral Students. Dissertation. California State University San Marcos.; College of Education, Health and Human Services, 2014. 227 pages.
Completion rate for a doctoral degree is much lower for African Americans/Blacks and Hispanics who are largely represented as first-generation. First-generation African Americans/Blacks and Hispanics have been reported as less likely to pursue a doctoral degree, and their experiences in the doctoral program have been less documented. The study was a qualitative narrative inquiry in which experiences turned into stories were told by four first-generation African Americans/Blacks and Hispanics pursuing their doctoral degree in Education.

* Viray, Sydnee. Writing from My Inside to My Outside: a First Generation College Student's Book Writing Journey Using Scholarly Personal Narrative and Social Work Concepts. Thesis. School of Education, University of Vermont, 2013. Requires Interlibrary Loan.
Sydnee Viray co-authored Our Stories Matter: Liberating the Voices of Marginalized Students Using Scholarly Personal Narrative Writing as a graduate student completing her Master of Education degree while working full-time at her University's Student Financial Services office. Using Scholarly Personal Narrative (SPN) as a research method, she suggests that SPN employs validation, empowerment, and pragmatically applied ethical tools that endow students with the privilege and honor of authorship leveraging her/his own personal narratives. Her thesis is a postmodern and constructivist research document that recognizes the researcher's personal experience (written as a scholarly personal narrative) as a valid object of study.