Date of Award



© 2021 Andrew Martin Frazier

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Cynthia Kennedy

Second Advisor

Aniello Trotta

Third Advisor

Mark Pierce


Earning a college degree is one of the most socially and economically beneficial accomplishments individuals can achieve in the United States. The benefits of a college degree are evident, however not all students attain such credentials equitably. One student group that graduates from college at disparate rates when compared to others is first-generation college students (FGCS), or those who are the first in their family to earn a degree. FGCS are twice as likely to leave college with no earned degree compared to students who have parents or guardians with college degrees. Additionally, while significant research focuses on FGCS support efforts, few studies capture the experiences of FGCS with academic advising and its influence on persistence and student success.

The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand how FGCS at a small, private university in Tennessee perceive their lived experiences with academic advising and advisor leadership, and whether such experiences influenced student success and persistence to graduation. Two research questions directed this study: (1) How do FGCS at a small, private university describe and understand their lived experiences with academic advising and their advisor? (2) How do FGCS perceive and relate the role of academic advising and their advisor in their success and persistence to graduation? Eight individuals participated in two rounds of semi-structured interviews.

Data analysis incorporated NVivo qualitative software and followed Moustakas’ (1994) modified van Kaam model. The seven-step analysis process resulted in four primary themes: (1) expectations and understandings of advising, (2) influence of encouragement and support, (3) advisor availability and access, and (4) perceptions and development of autonomy. Analysis also resulted in rich individual textural-structural descriptions, which culminated in a composite textural-structural description that captured the essence of how participants made sense of advising experiences. Results revealed that advising did benefit participants and helped them in their persistence to graduation. Findings also uncovered areas where policymakers and advisors must consider ways to support FGCS success and persistence such as through developing advising orientations, professional development on relational aspects of advising, making adequate time for FGCS advisees, and advising to support autonomy.


Ed.D. Dissertation