Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Year of Publication


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Jane McEldowney Jensen


First-generation college students do not persist to degree completion at the same rate as their continuing generation peers. There is a wide range of research focusing on the challenges and opportunities that first-generation college students experience, ranging from pre-matriculation factors, the transition period to college, and throughout the undergraduate years. The achievement gap, in terms of persistence to degree, has been a consistent focus of research as first-generation students routinely do not earn college degrees at the same rate as their continuing generation peers. This research takes a holistic approach to understanding the first-generation college student experience that does not solely focus on achievement gaps. This project focused on the journey of students from Eastern Kentucky to the flagship institution of the commonwealth. The purpose of this study was to identify what authorizes this group of first-generation college students to embrace their emerging scholar identity. This project utilized semi-structured interviews with 12 currently enrolled students from Eastern Kentucky that were enrolled at the University of Kentucky at the time of interview. Data were sorted and clarified using the process of thematic analysis (TA). Elements such as process awareness, comfort engaging with professors and other key stakeholders, as well as discussions why certain resources were utilized or not were considerations brought forth by the students.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by the EPE Dissertation Enhancement Award (Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation) in the College of Education at the University of Kentucky in 2021.