• A Narrative Inquiry of Work-Life Balance Among Faculty Mothers in Higher Education

      Riley, Lozarie; Tift College of Education
      Despite women outnumbering men as doctoral degree recipients, women remain underrepresented in higher education leadership roles. Specifically, women at the childbearing age serving as faculty often face challenges such as inadequate maternity leave and family policies that impede pathways for tenure, promotion, and elevation to senior administration. As such, the aim of this study was to explore the work-life balance experiences related to maternity leave and/or family policies of female employees on the path to higher education leadership. To address the research questions of this study, the researcher utilized narrative inquiry to capture the stories of four faculty mothers who gave birth and took a maternity leave period while working to earn tenure. Women’s Ways of Knowing theory served as a framework to understand how participants made sense of their experience. Through core story creation, developed by Polkinghorne (1988) and further extended by Emden (1998), narrative analysis of the stories resulted in a narrative specific to each participant, as well as a narrative of the faculty mother work-life balance culture. Four themes emerged that offer recommendations to advance the faculty mother work-life balance experience: Mentorship, Support to Return to Work After Leave, Advancing Leave Policies, and Work-Life Balance. The findings of this study implied that faculty mothers are disadvantaged by the Family Medical Leave Act, while desiring the creation of university level leave policies specific to pregnancy and motherhood. Recommendations for future studies include qualitative and quantitative study designs.
    • A Quantitative Study Examining Perceptions of Preparedness Among Entry-Level Student Affairs Professionals for an Active Shooter Event on Campus

      Ingoldsby, Carrie; Tift College of Education
      This quantitative, exploratory study examined perceptions of preparedness among entry-level student affairs professionals for an active shooter event (ASE) on campus. Institutions of higher education (IHE) have experienced an uptick of deadly and destructive ASEs in the last two decades. Colleges and universities vary on whether they provide consistent active shooter training to faculty, staff and/or students at all, as well as what level of training and type of training is provided, despite personal safety concerns. A total of 173 entry-level student affairs professionals completed the Entry-Level Student Affairs Professional Active Shooter Preparedness Survey (ELASPS). Spearman’s rank order correlation, t-tests, and ANOVA were utilized to examine perceptions of preparedness and level of efficacy to respond to an ASE in relation to individual and institutional demographics, as well as frequency, type, and content of active shooter training provided to entry-level student affairs professionals. Participants also provided open-ended data on perceptions of preparedness for an ASE, which was examined in relation to quantitative findings. Results indicated that entry-level student affairs professionals who received any amount or type of active shooter training had significantly higher perceived preparedness for an ASE and significantly higher levels of efficacy to respond to an ASE than did entry-level professionals who had no active shooter training. Thus, IHE should provide active, regular, and in-depth training such as drills, exercises, and simulations to allow ELSAP to feel more prepared and experience higher levels of efficacy to respond to an ASE. This study supports current research on active shooter preparedness and presents a strong case to administrators at IHE for the development and implementation of consistent and interactive active shooter training for entry-level student affairs professionals. Future research should focus on a specific area among entry-level student affairs professionals, such as residence life professionals, who are more often involved in direct student training of safety policies and procedures. Additionally, future studies might consider historically and underrepresented populations to better understand connections of ethnicity and perceived preparedness for an ASE.
    • Georgia Rural District Leaders’ Experiences with the Strategic Waiver School System Flexibility Options: A Multi-Site Case Study

      Jenkins, Cheryl Lynn; Tift College of Education
      As part of the reform efforts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, flexibility waivers are allowed to enable local school leaders to create an environment tailored to unique school community needs. The purpose of this qualitative, multi-site case study was to chronicle and analyze the implementation of the Strategic Waiver School System (SWSS) flexibility option offered to Georgia school districts. Guiding this investigation were the theoretical framework of change theory, undergirded by an accountability framework for analyzing education reform. The main research question asked: How do successful school districts implement the SWSS flexibility option? Four ancillary questions that examined the school districts’ implementation in terms of commitment, coherency, congruence, and continuity also guided the study. The researcher sought to understand and describe school leaders’ perceptions regarding their experiences with implementing the strategic waiver initiative in selected Georgia school districts. The research participants were district level leaders from four small rural school districts. This research study implemented a qualitative method, which provided the flexibility to investigate this phenomenon in depth. This approach allowed the researcher the opportunity to capture the participants’ feelings and lived experiences with this new initiative. Use of content analysis and Nvivo 12 software of interviews, survey, and documents revealed five thematic codes. District leaders perceived that the initiative had allowed them the autonomy and flexibility necessary to improve educational outcomes for all students. Implications were to provide professional learning opportunities to address the limited knowledge of SWSS waivers held by district leaders and the creation of a monitoring system to track waiver usage and share ideas. Recommendations for future research included targeting suburban district leaders’ perspectives and conducting of a quantitative survey to gather perspectives or rate customer satisfaction.
    • "I Just Can't Give Up Now": An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis Of The Role Of Spirituality In The Persistence To Graduation Of African American Male Students At Four-Year Institutions

      Wright, Brandon Joseph; Tift College of Education
      African American males have had the lowest baccalaureate graduation rates compared to all other races/ethnicities and genders in higher education (NCES, 2019). Researchers have identified salient factors that contribute to or impede this population’s persistence to graduation to mitigate this problem. One factor contributing significantly to African American males’ college persistence is spirituality (Herndon, 2003; Riggins et al., 2008; Salinas et al., 2018; Walker & Dixon, 2002; Watson, 2006; Wood & Hilton, 2012b). Thus, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the role of spirituality in the persistence to graduation of African American male students at four-year institutions. Smith et al.’s (2009) interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was chosen as the research methodology for the study. Using criterion, homogenous, and snowball sampling techniques, the researcher recruited 14 participants. All participants were African American males who had graduated from a four-year institution in the 2018-2021 year span. The researcher employed one-on-one, semi-structured interviews (12 participants) or an electronic, open-ended questionnaire (2 participants) as data collection methods. The researcher used an audit trail, a reflexivity journal, triangulation, member checking, and rich, thick descriptions to ensure trustworthiness. The researcher used Smith et al.’s (2009) six-steps of data analysis and NVivo to analyze the data presented. The seven superordinate themes that emerged were (1) Spiritual Beginnings, (2) Embracing Identity, (3) Interconnectedness, (4) Oppositional Stimuli, (5) Spiritual Coping Practices, (6) The Spiritual Resolutions, and (7) Spiritual Enrichment. The results of this study suggest that spirituality functioned as a transcendent source of support that provided connection, operated as a coping mechanism, and enriched the lives of African American male college students. In sum, these three auxiliary functions of spirituality supported the participants’ persistence to graduation. Based upon the findings, the researcher recommends a future mixed-methods longitudinal study utilizing the College Students Beliefs and Values (CSBV) survey to track Black males from admission to degree completion. The spiritual and religious measures of the CSBV are comparable to the findings of this study. The researcher also recommends studies to focus on the intersectionality of spirituality, sexuality, and Black identity development of Black queer college males; African American spirituality in Black male college persistence; and spirituality and academic disidentification of Black college males.
    • Job Expectancy, Burnout, and Departure: Predictors of High School Principal Turnover

      Ross, Tara; Tift College of Education
      Among the many new educational challenges resulting from COVID-19 and existing learning deficits of students in underserved communities, districts and policymakers must address the school disruption caused by constant principal turnover. Extensive empirical studies on principal turnover continually show that transiting leaders impact staff and students at similar rates each year, further widening the gaps in performance for select subgroups of students and the careers of these leaders. The purpose of this study was to examine the causes of principal turnover in relation to those who stay and leave public education after one and three years with a focus on high school principals from a large metropolitan district in a southwestern region of the United States. The researcher aggregated district and school-level certified personnel data of 339 from approximately 2000 school principals through 2017-2020. The data were compiled into two categories: (a) staying on or leaving the job after one year and (b) staying on the job or leaving after three years. Using binomial logistic regression design, the researcher determined the extent that principals leave their schools based on individual and collective influences in the profession. The construct of job embeddedness was used to define the voluntary principal turnover behaviors for multiple years. The analysis showed a decrease in the principals who stayed at the same school from one to three years, with key variables such as the principal’s age, gender, and subordinate leaders predicting their intent to remain with the institution. The impact takes three to five years to improve the school or return student performance to a certain level. Furthering students’ educational path requires the district and school leaders to develop systematic and supportive processes to decrease principal turnover rate, particularly with minority student populations and inexperienced school leaders. Preventing and predicting involuntary principal turnover is necessary to increase and sustain the achievement and school climates conducive for favorable working and learning conditions. Recommendations included systematic efforts for national, state, and district retention initiatives, ongoing professional development on school improvement cycles, coaching for principals beyond their first two years, and greater autonomy at the school level.
    • Manager in the Middle: A View of Strategic Planning in Higher Education from the Middle Management Perspective

      Flanders, Kimberly Sharron; Tift College of Education
      Strategic planning is a process that can assist institutions in responding to and preparing for the myriad changes in higher education; however, a lack of communication and other challenges can hinder institutions’ ability to effectively engage in the process. Because middle managers serve as liaisons between organizational leadership and front-line staff, this transcendental phenomenological investigation sought to understand the experiences of middle managers in the strategic planning process through the lens of path-goal theory. Criterion and snowball sampling were used to identify twelve middle managers to participate in semi-structured, topical interviews. The data were analyzed utilizing the modified Van Kaam method of analysis of phenomenological data to develop a description of the phenomenon. Findings from this investigation indicated that middle managers experienced strategic planning as a top-down process implemented with a team approach and the goal of benefiting students and the institution. The participants shared that they would like to be included in strategic planning discussions early in the process to help shape institutional priorities and actions based on their experiences with students, parents, and other stakeholders. Additionally, the participants agreed that their teams should be included in the strategic planning process to garner more buy-in and to provide a robust breadth of knowledge and experience in the discussions. The middle managers in this study also noted that the attitude of the leadership and support from an institutional research, or similar, office impacted their experience with the strategic planning process. Strategic planning leaders can utilize the information gleaned from this study to more effectively engage middle managers in the process, such as by providing trainings and early involvement. Future research in this area should study middle managers working at different types of institutions and should include more faculty participants.
    • Mapping Internationalization at Community Colleges in the United States: Development and Validation of a Short Form of the American Council on Education Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses Instrument

      Lewis, Ashwin; Tift College of Education
      The primary purpose of this study was to develop and validate a short form of the American Council on Education Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses instrument (the Mappings instrument) so that it can be used to measure internationalization at community colleges in the United States. A secondary purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between community college internationalization and the institutional characteristics of control, minority-serving, and urbanicity so that the results can inform the internationalization strategy of the community college. These three institutional characteristics, as defined by IPEDS, were identified in the latest 2016 ACE Mappings survey. The community colleges’ responses to ACE 2016 Mappings instrument were dichotomized and quantified. The instrument development process followed that of Spector (1992). Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to analyze and validate the short form of the Mappings instrument. The final solution was verified using categorical principal component analysis (CATPCA). The frequency distributions were categorized using the Sawilowsky et al. (1990) distribution types. The principal component analysis (PCA) process reduced the ACE Mappings instrument to 17 items while maintaining 72.04% of the information. The PCA process described internationalization as a five-dimensional construct. Cronbach reliability coefficient alpha (α) alpha was used to check the reliability of the short form. The Cronbach coefficient alpha (α) of the five dimensions ranged from .68 to .92. The corrected item-total correlations were all above .3. The distribution were all non-normal. Two types of Sawilovsky et al. (1990) distributions were identified. Using the frequency distributions, this study developed two types of norming strategies. The results of the study showed that there was a relationship between community college internationalization and the institutional characteristics of control, minority-serving, and urbanicity. Private not-for-profit community colleges scored the highest in three of the five dimensions with private for-profit community colleges scoring the highest in the remaining two dimensions. Minority-serving community colleges scored the highest in all of the dimensions except for the curriculum internationalization dimension. Community colleges situated in the city scored the highest in all of the dimensions except for the curriculum internationalization dimension.
    • Protecting Our Moms: An Investigation of Workplace Incivility and Job Satisfaction for Mothers Working in Student Affairs

      Swanger, Stefanie; Tift College of Education
      Research indicates that workplace incivility affects the higher education workplace and has been shown to reduce job satisfaction. Existing literature on these two variables focuses heavily on academic faculty, failing to investigate this trend for student affairs staff members. Additional evidence points to motherhood bias at work, which often presents itself as harsh performance reviews, missed opportunities for promotion, and reduced wages. This is exceptionally problematic for the student affairs field in which women represent almost three-quarters of student affairs employees. This study investigated the correlation between workplace incivility and job satisfaction for mothers working in student affairs using One-way ANOVA and independent samples t-tests. Five hundred and eighty-four student affairs mothers participated in the study and completed the Job Satisfaction Survey (JSS) and Workplace Incivility Scale (WIS). The results of this study indicate that mothers working in student affairs express the highest levels of job satisfaction with the nature of the work, supervision, and coworkers, while expressing the lowest levels of satisfaction with pay and promotion potential. Compared to historical data, student affairs moms expressed the lowest levels of job satisfaction versus higher education workers and United States all industry workers. Concerning workplace incivility, 95% of student affairs mothers had experienced at least one uncivil act at work in the preceding 12 months, while 17 % had experienced all seven types of workplace incivility. Additionally, participants who had experienced workplace incivility demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in overall job satisfaction and satisfaction in each of the nine JSS subscales. This study presents a call to action for administrators to develop policies and procedures for addressing uncivil acts in the workplace directed toward student affairs mothers, while urging mothers to report such acts through the appropriate channels. Future research should focus on greater participant diversity and additional demographics to understand the relationship between workplace incivility and job satisfaction based on institution type, and participant degree levels, job titles, and wages. Additionally, investigation of these two variables along with attrition and turnover intentions may provide the field a greater understanding of the impact of workplace incivility for student affairs mothers.
    • Putting the Kids at the Center Focus: Teacher Motivation Throughout Professional Learning

      Rees, Stephanie Ann; Tift College of Education
      Despite the fact that professional learning is the main means for maintaining quality educators and improving school instruction, professional learning does not guarantee teacher implementation of professional learning or increased student achievement. The inconsistency reflects the complexity of implementing professional learning with teachers that have different professional learning needs and preferences for professional learning. Because professional learning is a regular expectation for educators, instructional leaders need to implement professional learning that reflects the professional learning needs and supports the well-being of educators. This qualitative phenomenological study explored how teachers experience motivation throughout professional learning to engage and implement professional learning. Participants included five high school teachers who represent a diversity of content-areas, genders, and years of experience. Data included observations of the monthly professional learning sessions and follow-up interviews for each professional learning session. Data were analyzed using a recursive qualitative approach to regularly reflect on data and draw conclusions. The results revealed that teachers experienced increased and decreased motivation at various times throughout professional learning. Teachers identify their needs for professional learning. Teachers then select and engage professional learning that reflects those needs. Finally, the design of the professional learning supports teachers plans to implement professional learning in their classrooms. Student needs and feedback guided teachers’ decisions regarding professional learning. Recommendations for current practice include incorporating personalized professional learning because not all teachers learn in the same manner. Recommendations for future research include quantitative and qualitative research on how personalized professional learning and autonomy-supportive leadership support teachers’ motivation and well-being throughout professional learning and encourage student achievement.
    • Raising the Bar: Institutional Action to Address College Graduation Rates for Students of Color from Low Socioeconomic Backgrounds

      Clark, Jr., Ricky; Tift College of Education
      The purpose of this qualitative single site case study was to examine the practices, policies, and programs at a university with exceptional graduation rates for students of color from low socioeconomic backgrounds. This study identified the impact of various departments, such as financial planning, recruitment and admissions, academic services, curriculum and instruction, and student services, on student persistence, from the perspective of both students of color as well as departmental leadership. This study also identified what students of color from low socioeconomic backgrounds perceived contributed to their success. The research question that guided this study was: How are the institutional factors of Swail’s (2003) Geometric Model of Student Persistence and Achievement implemented at a southern U.S. university with graduation rates for students of color from low socio-economic backgrounds that meet or exceed the national average graduation rate of 59 percent? The selected site was a private liberal arts institution in the southern region of the United States. The researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with faculty, staff, and students; campus observations; and document reviews. Hybrid thematic analysis (inductive and deductive) revealed that peer-to-peer mentoring and faculty/staff to student mentoring, supplemental instruction and tutoring, office or staff devoted to retention efforts, collaborative community campus environment, and consistent financial resources positively impacted the success of students of color from low socioeconomic backgrounds. This study may inform institutions of higher education of successful policies, practices, and programs that may influence persistence to graduate for students of color from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Implementation of the following may influence the success of students of color from low socioeconomic background: interdepartmental cross training, investment of additional time and resources into TRIO programs, creation or expansion of supplemental instruction and tutoring programs, create an office or train a staff member to address student retention, provision of consistent financial resources and education, provision of affinity group opportunities or safe space environments, and creation of a “community feel” on campus. Recommendations for further research include applying this research to various institutional types such as technical colleges, community colleges, HBCUs, Tribal Colleges or public institution; expand current research to include alumni perspective on student success; and expand current research focusing on individual academic departments or units to offer deeper understanding.
    • Self-Efficacy of K-12 Mathematics Teachers in Teaching Math

      Sillah, Omar; Tift College of Education
      The need to understand the differences in the self-efficacy of K-12 mathematics teachers based on teachers’ characteristics and school factors is imperative because research has shown teachers’ self-efficacy to be a mediating factor on students’ academic achievement. As such, education policymakers and school administrators need to understand variances in teachers’ self-efficacy so that they could better implement programs to enhance and support the self-efficacy of teachers. This quantitative research used an exploratory cross-sectional design. The study consisted of 50 K-12 inservice teachers from two rural districts in a southeastern state in the United States. The study examined differences in teachers’ sense of self-efficacy (TSES) for teaching mathematics at the K-12 level based on teachers’ gender, teaching experience, education level, and school type (elementary school, middle school, and high school). Findings suggest that teachers’ overall sense of self-efficacy and subscales efficacies (student engagement, instructional strategies, and classroom management) based on school factors and demographic variables were comparable in the context of rural teachers in the southeast United States. The findings of insignificant differences in teachers’ sense of self-efficacy that were discovered in this research might be due to the positive working environment among staff and the dual role of principals as teachers and school leaders that are characteristic of schools in rural settings. Based on the findings of this research, future studies might want to examine the influence of suburban and urban environments on teachers’ sense of efficacy for teaching mathematics in K-12 settings, for the experiences of teachers in rural settings might be unique when compared to teachers in other school environments.
    • Sister Circles: African American Women’s Sense of Community in Online Learning

      Howard-West, Barbara; Tift College of Education
      Despite the higher enrollment rate of African American women in higher education, they have lower graduation and higher attrition rates than any other ethnic group in online higher education doctoral programs. Limited research exists on African American women’s experiences in online learning. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to document any cohesion that supports a sense of community and retention and explore the personal and academic experiences of African American women enrolled in a hybrid doctoral program at a private White institution as they engaged in a sister circle. A social constructivism epistemology informed the frameworks of critical race feminism and McMillan and Chavis’s sense of community, thus forming the foundation for this study. Interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) guided the data analysis process. Nine African American women who self-identified as “Black” participated in a sister circle while matriculating in a hybrid doctoral program. Focus group discussions occurred in an online forum learning management system called Canvas. Interviews were completed via video conferencing using Zoom. The themes of focus on self, focus on feelings, focus on experiences, and focus on connections emerged from the data analysis. The first superordinate theme, focus on self, provided an emotional scrutinizing diagnosis of African American women as they discussed their experiences identifying strategies to persevere in the program. The second superordinate theme, focus on feelings, provided a synopsis of African American women’s feelings related to African American women as a whole, and identify areas that they thought were important. The third superordinate theme, focus on experiences, appeared as the participants discussed their experiences as African American women in the sister circle. The last superordinate theme, focus on connections, arose as the members provided detailed accounts of their connections with one another. Implications for educational policy were to include more counter-spaces for African American women to make meaning of their oppressed and underprivileged experiences. More research is necessary on the effect of sister circles on the experiences of African American women attending private White institutions.
    • The Impact of Introducing Resident Physicians in the ICU: Perceptions of Safety Culture Change by Staff and Residents in the ICU Following the Introduction of Residency Training Programs in a New Teaching Hospital

      Brown, Donna Pittillo; Tift College of Education
      Studies indicate the third leading cause of death in the United States is medical error, and up to 21% of admitted patients are affected by a medical error during their hospital stay. Efforts to reduce patient error have led many hospitals to adopt systems and processes to encourage a culture where the staff and providers feel comfortable to report errors. Residents in training programs are an important part of the safety culture of the hospital but are not often included in patient safety and quality improvement initiatives. The impact that residents have on the safety culture of the hospital is infrequently studied. This study evaluated data from safety culture surveys in a new community teaching hospital and compared ICU staff and resident perceptions pre- and post-start of residency. ICU staff completed the Safety Culture Index as part of an annual employee engagement survey in 2018-2021, providing data for 12 months prior to residency training to two years after the start of residency programs. Residents completed the Safety Attitudes Questionnaire at intervals during residency of 0 through 25 months of residency. Mean scores indicate that ICU staff safety culture perceptions showed an overall positive increase from one year prior to residents starting to two years after start. Resident perceptions at the start of residency training were in the “Strongly Agree” range when starting residency then declined to the “Agree” or “Neutral” range at the one-year point. The mean value of resident scores after one year of residency training met the average responses from the staff survey in the same period and scores from both groups increased between the first and second year of residency training. This study demonstrates the impact that residents can have to improve safety culture in the ICUs of a new teaching hospital. Results from this study can assist hospital leaders to better understand the impact of residents on safety culture and support initiatives to start residency programs in community hospitals. Existing residency programs may be encouraged by the results of this study to integrate residents into hospital patient safety and quality improvement initiatives to improve patient care.
    • The Impact of Wealth on the Higher Education Outcome of Low-Income Black Students

      Brooks, Monica D; Tift College of Education
      ABSTRACT MONICA D. BROOKS THE IMPACT OF WEALTH ON THE HIGHER EDUCATION OUTCOME OF LOW-INCOME BLACK STUDENTS Under the direction of JANE WEST, Ed.D. Using data collected from the United States Census and the National Center for Educational Statistics, the purpose of this study was to examine the causal effect of wealth and its impact on the higher education outcome of low-income Black students. A quantile threshold model was used to investigate the effect of household wealth on low-income, Black students' educational attainment. Wealth, the primary explanatory variable, is proxied by the median housing value and median household per capita income. The target or dependent variable is education attainment among low-income, Black students. The control variables were the Black-to-White population ratio, number of retail trade establishments, student-to-teacher ratio, and public education budget per student allocations. The sample period runs from 1990 through 2018. The study employs quantile regression and finds that (a) household wealth has a positive and significant effect on the higher education attainment of low-income, Black students (b) the magnitude of the impact of household wealth on the educational attainment of low-income, Black students is time-varying, and asymmetric since the effects of household wealth vary in statistical significance across different quantiles of Black students' higher education attainment; (c) White-flight, which is associated with wealth flight, has a negative causal effect on the educational attainment of Black students. The results from this study show that higher education outcomes are reflective of household wealth. Policymakers should consider the accumulation and sustainability of household wealth as a critical driver of educational attainment in different communities.
    • Transfer Receptivity: An Examination of Factors that Influence Transfer Student Retention at a Four-Year Public University

      Joseph, Daurette Lavon; Tift College of Education
      While eighty percent of students enrolled in community colleges express the intent to transfer to a 4-year institution and earn a bachelor’s degree, only seventeen percent actually reach that goal within 6 years of transferring. This study addressed the problem using case study methodology to identify, understand, and describe factors at a four-year public university that influence community college transfer students’ successful degree completion. The setting for the study is a four-year public university with a consistently competitive degree completion rate for community college transfer students. In their most recent report, seventy nine percent of transfer students who entered the university from community college settings received a bachelor's degree within 6 years. The study was guided by three research questions related to the institution’s culture, strategies, policies, and procedures in academic and financial aid advisement. Multiple data collection methods were used, including document analyses and staff interviews. Eight critical university documents were reviewed inductively before interviews were conducted with eleven staff of the institution. The researcher gathered their reflections and insights using open-ended interviews. Data analyses revealed four themes that addressed the research question: Validating Experience and Evaluating Needs, Collaborating Internally and Externally, Creating Advising Opportunities, and Supporting Engagement and Resource Connections. The findings strongly indicate a critical need for transfer student institutional support. Further, the findings suggest that universities should evaluate transfer students' needs based on their experiences, form strategic internal and external partnerships to anticipate and address transfer student transition issues, and support and facilitate transfer student engagement. The study adds to the emerging literature on transfer receptivity by focusing on the four-year institution and its role in supporting transfer students through their transition and degree completion. The classroom provides a unique opportunity for transfer students to engage socially and academically. Future research should consider the faculty’s role and influence on transfer students’ engagement.
    • Transgender Student Perceptions of Institutional Approaches that Facilitate Persistence and Graduation

      Mooring, Stephanie Ann; Tift College of Education
      The increased visibility of transgender students in higher education institutions highlights the need for institutions to recognize the types of barriers encountered by this student population in order to implement institutional approaches to help retain these students. As such, this study sought to understand the impact of institutional approaches on transgender students’ decisions to persist in college as well as how these students conceptualize their successful progression in their institutions. To explore the perceptions of transgender college students regarding their higher education experiences, the researcher conducted qualitative research using Tinto’s (1975, 1988) theory of student departure as the theoretical framework. The interviews of 13 participants were analyzed using thematic analysis methods, which resulted in two themes: Barriers Encountered by Students and Ability to Persist. Findings show that participants came to their institutions expecting to find an accepting and supportive environment; however, most participants were disappointed by the lack of adequate support resources provided by their institutions. To compensate for this lack of institutional support, participants took a do-it-yourself approach to constructing their own support systems. The findings of this study identify improper pronoun usage, the attitudes and lack of trans competency of faculty and staff, inadequate counseling centers, trans incompetent LGBT groups, and a lack of transgender programming events as barriers that participants encountered at their higher education institutions. The findings also indicate that institutions can better serve this student population by hiring transgender faculty and staff, making the campus community more trans competent through educational programming, and providing safe access to physical spaces and adequate support. Recommendations for future research include examining how institutions evaluate their transgender student supports, exploring the thoughts and attitudes of professors toward sexual minority students, comparing different pronoun use protocols as well as faculty and student perceptions of each method, and exploring the attitudes of cisgender college students toward their transgender peers.
    • We Did It! Examining how First-Generation College Students Graduated from a Four-Year College or University through a Positive Psychology Lens

      Johnson, Joleesa Adriana; Tift College of Education
      More and more first-generation college students have been enrolling in colleges across the United States; however, enrollment does not mean graduation. Research has shown that first-generation college students are less likely to graduate than their non-first-generation college peers. A gap exists between first-generation college students’ enrollment rates and their graduation rates, as well as their graduation rates and the graduation rates of their non-first-generation college peers. This qualitative study was conducted to understand the lived experiences of first-generation college students. It explored how first-generation college students graduated from a four-year higher education institution by examining their positive characteristics, specifically their character strengths (Norrish et al., 2013). The researcher employed a phenomenological approach to help understand the lived experiences of first-generation college students as they relate to the character strengths they utilized to graduate from college. The researcher used purposeful and snowball sampling to recruit participants for this study. This studied included 10 first-generation college graduates who attained their bachelor’s degree within the past 10 years. To collect the data, the researcher conducted one semi-structured, virtual interview with each participant. The researcher also followed verification procedures to mitigate researcher bias and increase the trustworthiness of this study. The results of this study showed that the participants faced many challenges while in college; however, giving up was not an option as the six themes emerged: Agency, Supportive Circle, Future-mindedness, Stick-to-it-iveness, External Motivation, and Positive Emotions illustrated their persistence toward graduation and the desire to attain their degree. The participants employed the following character strengths: perseverance, self-regulation, love, hope, gratitude, bravery, and leadership to graduate from college. According to the definitions of these character strengths, they were found to demonstrate the six themes and the six themes gave context to the realization and utilization of these seven character strengths. The results of this study demonstrate the possibility of higher education institutions creating an environment that includes interventions that encourage and empower their students, especially first-generation college students, to identify and use character strengths to assist in the persistence and graduation of this population. Recommendations for future research include conducting more qualitative studies to explore how first-generation college students graduated from college. Also, conducting mixed-method studies that use the Values in Action (VIA) Survey to increase the accuracy of identifying first-generation college students’ character strengths.