Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Communication and Information Studies



First Advisor

Dr. Deanna Sellnow


The study examines how messages to, from, and concerning home may impact first-semester college student retention. The current study extends previous retention research in several ways. Rather than collect data regarding retention after students drop out, this study analyzed free write responses of 135 participants while they were enrolled in 15 sections of CIS 110 (Composition and Communication I) throughout the course of the Fall 2010 semester. Using relational dialectics theory (RDT) (Baxter & Montgomery, 1996) as a sensitizing framework, this study identified three discursive struggles and associated radiants of meaning present in the free write responses of these 135 first semester college students. Specifically, students identified experiencing the discursive struggles of independence, integration, and expression during the first semester of college. Non-returning students also identified these same three discursive struggles. However, non-returning students identified the discursive struggle of expression much more than did the returning students. Ultimately, this dissertation study proposed practical implications for students, parents, and the academy regarding how messages to, from, and about home might impact the transition of first-semester students from high school to college.

Included in

Communication Commons