Date of Award



© 2018 Staci L. Grasky

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Brianna Parsons

Second Advisor

Joel Lowsky

Third Advisor

Janet Sortor


The economy of the early twenty-first century endured the Great Recession, demanded an increasingly skilled workforce, and saw technological advancements that enabled new levels of scrutiny and accountability. Within this environment, institutions of higher education felt the impacts of recession and recovery, changing workforce demands, and heightened scrutiny. For community colleges, student demographics shifted and challenges grew as they admitted high numbers of students who faced obstacles to attaining their academic goals, such as a lack of preparation for college level work, low socioeconomic status, unclear goals, and first-generation status. With little ability to control these factors and mounting pressure to ensure positive student outcomes, higher education administrators began to rely on advising to help shepherd students through unfamiliar academic territory and build students’ institutional integration. During that time, a system of community colleges in the northeastern U.S. sought to support at-risk students to academic success through a program of proactive advising delivered by professional advisors and peer mentors. This qualitative collective case study examined the experiences of peer mentors to discover how they perceived advising contributed to their socio-academic integration and led to their success as students. Through semi-structured interviews of peer mentors and advisors, the study found that these successful students were motivated by those close to them and by their emerging personal goals, sought help with practical enrollment matters and grew to accept help academically, felt comfortable at their institutions through initial familiarity and that comfort continually increased, and established self-confidence in their academic and personal capabilities. Implications for advising practice include building advisor-student relationships as soon as possible, proactively and regularly communicating with students in a variety of ways, involving all campus constituencies in advising efforts, and celebrating and building on student success. The study provides recommendations for practitioners, including early and consistent communication, respect for individual needs and preferences while recognizing that all students have some level of need, and proactively building positive, not punitive, advisor-student relationships. Also included are suggestions for further research in the field of academic advising within and beyond the community college setting.


Ed.D. Dissertation