The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type




Degree Name

Higher Education Administration: Ed.D.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer B. Jones

Second Advisor

Dr. Rachel Friedensen

Third Advisor

Dr. Steven McCullar

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Michael Beane

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

first-generation, community college, academic advising, first-year, higher education


The current study was conducted to better understand how first-time, full-time, first-generation community college students understand their experiences with academic advising in their first year of college. This study utilized a qualitative research design with a case study methodology to focus on how first-generation students experience academic advising and how their experiences reflect the expectations of their institution. The theoretical framework used for this study was Schlossberg’s Transition Theory. Participants in this study are first-generation community college students and community college academic advisors, and seven first-generation students and two academic advisors participated in individual semi-structured interviews. Data collected also includes documents related to academic advising produced by the institution. This study's findings reveal connections and disconnections across the student experience and the institutional expectations, as well as significant elements of the first-generation transition into college. Although the role of academic guidance in advising is aligned across all data sources, the findings from this study indicate that first-generation students are also looking to academic advisors for emotional support and additional access to knowledge and resources. Findings from this study reveal that academic advisors are aware of these needs. Still, their preparation and training lack depth, and recommendations include more intentional, ongoing training for academic advisors. Suggestions for future research involve increasing the population size and scope. Further exploration of the impact of gender identity in academic advising is also recommended.


I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to the many people who have supported me throughout this journey. As a first-generation college graduate, I am still in awe that I have made it to this point, and I am humbled by all the support that I have received along the way.

Dr. Jennifer B. Jones, my advisor and chair, I truly believe I would not have been able to make it to this point without your support. I wrote a dissertation about advising that discovered that first-generation students need emotional support and I believe I am a testament to that research because I absolutely needed you for emotional support. I think the number of times I cried over Zoom supports that finding! You pushed me to think deeper and helped me find comfort outside of my comfort zone. I cannot thank you enough.

Dr. Rachel Friedensen, thank you for your continued willingness to read my early drafts. Your assistance in helping me to understand case study research was instrumental. Your questions always pushed me to think more deeply, and I am so thankful for your support throughout this process.

Dr. Steven McCullar, I will forever be grateful that I met you at a NACADA conference. This program has been the most challenging, yet rewarding experience of my life, and I appreciate you taking a chance on me. I am so grateful that you were able to serve on my committee and I appreciate your insights and assistance in pushing my thinking to the next level.

Dr. Michael Beane, thank you for your willingness to take the time to serve on this committee amidst what I know is an already demanding full-time job. Your perspective from the community college was crucial, and your assistance in the early stages of getting my research off the ground was instrumental.

To the students and advisors who helped make this study a reality – I am forever grateful to you. Your stories invigorated me, and speaking with each one of you reminded me of exactly why I do this work. I cannot thank you enough.

To my friends, coworkers, and to the coworkers who have become dear friends – somehow there are too many of you to count and I am so thankful to be in that position. I am sure each and every one of you is just as happy as I am to be done – simply so that you no longer have to hear about my dissertation! You all believed in me when I did not believe in myself – thank you.

To my family, thank you for supporting me – even when you were not exactly sure what I was doing at times. If it would not have been for you all believing in me, I may have never made it this far. I am forever grateful for your ongoing and endless support.

Lastly, to my husband Perry, the words “thank you” do not capture the extent of how grateful I am for you. You have been with me for all my degrees, and I honestly would not be here without you. You have been my rock throughout this process. You have listened to me complain, worry, and cry – and you have consistently reminded me that I can do this, and not to give up every single time that I wanted to do just that. You have celebrated with me each step of the way and I cannot wait to celebrate this final educational milestone together. We officially have survived me getting through school – for the last time!! I love you forever, Perry.



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