• "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.
    • 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.