Date of Award



© 2017 Jennifer Graham

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Brianna Parsons

Second Advisor

Michael Patrick

Third Advisor

Lynne Nelson Manion


This phenomenological case study examined full-time community college faculty perceptions of their role in student retention. Eight participants were asked to reflect on their understanding and use of student retention strategies, as well as what motivated and deterred their participation in institutional retention initiatives. Interviews were conducted to add practitioner voices to the conversation on student retention in higher education.

Three research questions guided the study: (1) How do full-time community college faculty members perceive and describe their role in student retention? (2) What experiences do faculty describe as motivating their participation in institutional retention initiatives? (3) What experiences do faculty describe as deterring their participation in institutional retention initiatives? Once the data were collected, member checks were conducted and data were analyzed using NVivo qualitative software.

Four themes emerged during data analysis: (1) faculty perceive relationships as central to student retention; (2) student retention is complex and is influenced by multiple factors, some of which cannot be addressed by the institution; (3) faculty’s ability to retain students is impacted by institutional practices and climate; and (4) faculty describe motivation to retain students as being primarily intrinsic. The four themes contained 13 subthemes that provided deeper explanations of the participants’ experiences.

The findings indicated that faculty have moved beyond needing to be persuaded that they are important to student retention to recognizing the value of their role. Faculty are willing to participate in student retention initiatives that align with their values. Initiatives that increase collegiality and interaction among faculty may be more successful than those based on individual efforts. Institutions can encourage faculty participation by providing release time, small class sizes and reduced teaching loads, professional development, recognition, and incentives such as stipends.


Ed.D. Dissertation

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