Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership, Research and Counseling

First Advisor

Becky Ropers-Huilman


This study examined the relationships between on-campus interactions and African American retention decisions. Specifically, qualitative research methods were used to better understand how interactions between African American students and others (staff, faculty, and peers) on a predominantly white campus shaped African American students' realities and, consequently, how those realities influenced their decisions to persist through degree completion. The population for this study was African American students attending Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU). The sample was composed of 20 African American students who were enrolled in a 4-year degree program at SLU and in good academic standing. The sampling technique utilized in this study was snowball selection sampling. The data instruments utilized were semi-structured, in-depth interviews, brief autobiographies, and participant journals to develop a broader conception of each student's perspective of on-campus interactions and how the interactions relate to his or her retention decisions. The findings from this study revealed that both traditional and non-traditional students desired high quality interactions with faculty and other members of the university family. Participants reported that they had both positive and negative on-campus interactions in varying degrees. Accounts of positive interactions informed that those interactions (a) restored confidence in the probability of success in the classroom, (b) built a rapport with teachers and teaching methods in enhanced the probability of success, (c) impacted subjective grading, and (d) impacted retention decisions by reducing feelings of isolation and alienation. Respondents reported that negative interactions generally gave them momentary feelings of dropping out. Additionally, they reported that quality interactions with staff, faculty, and students had the potential of reaffirming their decisions to remain in college through degree attainment.