Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership, Research and Counseling

Document Type



This dissertation was a case study of four community college women who were first in their families to attend college. Through this study, the “first-generation” construct was analyzed in regard to its uses and limits. The researcher found the label as an identifier becomes problematic through social discourse. These results confirm London’s (1996) finding that students themselves do not necessarily find anything unique about their situations or anything in common with other students simply based on their being the first in their families to attend college. Therefore, the “first-generation” construct may be viewed primarily as a higher education versus an individual construct. This study further explored the ways in which the participants constructed their own identities and challenges related to participation and persistence. A significant finding was participants’ distinctions of their career and academic identities. Another significant finding was the students’ expressions of personal control over their finances and life choices in general. All four of the students held positive outlooks for their futures regarding gaining more independence, achieving their personal or professional goals, and becoming “smarter.” None of the four students viewed themselves as powerless or at risk.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Becky Ropers-Huilman



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