Date of Award



© 2017 Dianna Montfort

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Joanne Cooper

Second Advisor

Thea Williams-Black

Third Advisor

Denise Treadwell-Thompkins

Fourth Advisor

Michelle Collay


This qualitative phenomenological study examined the lived experiences of minority adult learners who have experienced academic difficulty while pursuing their college degree. Participants were asked to reflect on their past educational experiences, the obstacles they faced, their motivation to persist, and any recommendations they could render in an effort to assist other students who may face similar obstacles. Interviews were conducted to give a voice to nine participants who experienced academic difficulty, yet persisted.

To understand the factors that affected undergraduate minority adults, the participants were asked to reflect on their past experiences, obstacles, and their motivation to persist. To guide the study, there were three research questions: (a) What factors do students perceive contributed to their poor academic performance as undergraduate minority adult learners? (b) What past educational experiences do undergraduate minority adult learners believe affected their ability to adapt to college as adults? (c) What psychological needs are most important to undergraduate minority adult learners who experience academic difficulty? Once the data were collected, member checks were conducted and data were analyzed using NVivo qualitative software.

To understand the scope of the participants’ experiences, the conceptual frameworks of Swail’s geometric model of student persistence and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs were used. From the interviews, four themes emerged: (a) overcoming obstacles, (b) struggling to adapt, (c) motivation to persist: balancing life, and (d) recommendations to Centrism College. The four themes contained 22 subthemes that provided deeper explanations of the participants’ experiences. This study confirmed that support was essential to the persistence of adult learners both inside and outside of the college environment. This study disconfirmed Tinto’s (2012) idea of committing figurative suicide of one’s culture. This study elaborated on the need for culture and community support. Fostering community at the institution showed the need for faculty/student relationships as an essential part of the retention process. Swail’s theory (2003) was confirmed by findings that understanding the need of inclusion was a key factor for true retention. This study revealed the importance of family and the need for social integration to promote persistence among undergraduate minority adult learners.


Ed.D. Dissertation

Dianna's presentation on this topic for the UNE CGPS Virtual Research Symposium 2019 can be found here: