Healthcare Student Collegiate Honors Decision-Making: A Grounded Theory

Brenda Frie, St. Cloud State University

First, I would like to thank the 25 students from St. Catherine University that volunteered their time for the study and the administration at St. Catherine University for their support of my research. I also would like to thank my committee: Dr. Michael Mills, Dr. Steven McCullar, Dr. Erin Heath, and Dr. Kristi Haertl for sharing their wisdom and knowledge improving my skill as a researcher and the outcomes of this study. In particular, I would like to thank my chair Dr. Mills for his analytical mind that helped spur me on to excellence. A special thanks to Kristi Haertl, Dr. Patricia Finch Guthrie and Dr. Diane Millis for their encouragement, confidence and faith in my ability. I am grateful to have role models beside me that have nurtured my growth academically and professionally. Thank you.


This study sought to understand the decision-making process by which healthcare students decide to participate in collegiate honors programing. Nationally four-year completion rates in honors programing are low (Cognard-Black & Smith, 2015), particularly for students in professional programs. To further examine retention in honors programing, this study asked how healthcare students’ values, knowledge and experiences inform their decision to participate in honors programing. The researcher interviewed 25 students representing 10 different undergraduate, and graduate healthcare professions. Using the constructivist grounded theory method popularized by Charmaz (2012, 2014), analysis of participant narratives grounded the Model of Healthcare Student Collegiate Honors Program Decision-Making. The Model is comprised of four major themes that explain the factors that influence students decisions to join, decline or drop honors programing. The identified themes are valuing honors, pre-college experiences, selective admission, confounding factors.

Students that joined the collegiate honor program valued the programs offerings. Pre-college experiences in high-school honors programing were associated with being pre-selected for admission and joining the honors program. The identified confounding factors that led students to decline or drop honors programing were: Major demands, stress of the program, ethnic diversity, and concerns related to the program cost and effect on cumulative GPA. The generated theory supports program change to meet the needs of students enhancing the learning outcomes and program completion. The study captured students’ innovative ideas about how to redesign an honors program to meet student needs through incorporation of an interprofessional education (IPE) framework into honors course design.