Date of Award

Spring 6-11-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Christopher McCullough

Second Advisor

Melissa Bradford

Third Advisor

Kimberly Everett


First-generation African American students often find it challenging transitioning from high school to college. Despite facing challenges, many of these students enroll and persist to degree attainment. The purpose of this study is to explore the lived experiences of first-generation African American college students at PWIs. This qualitative, phenomenological study utilizes the marginality and mattering theory as a lens to examine the lived experiences of first-generation African American college students who persevered from predominantly Black high schools to predominantly White institutions (PWIs). Much of the research on first-generation college students tends to focus on quantifiable data such as GPAs and the rate at which students graduate. Although these statistics are important, far less is known about the lived experiences of first-generation African-American students on the campuses of PWIs. There are meaningful realities that can be learned from this group of students. Contexts such as a lack of sense of belonging and social capital and increase in microaggressions are rooted in the experiences of these students. As such, institutions of higher education (IHEs), counselors, faculty, staff, and researchers of higher education stand to learn more about how to support first-generation African American students at PWIs by allowing them to give voice to their own lived experiences. This type of comprehensive, qualitative research is necessary to explore the lives of these students as they transition to higher education.