School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Jeffrey S. Savage


Appalachian Region, First-generation College Students, Persistence, Resilience, Working Adult Students


Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Other Education


he purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe and understand the complexity of life experiences for first-generation college students or recent graduates who are working adults in the Central and South-Central Appalachian region of the United States in light of the construct resilience and how purposefully selected students continued study despite difficulties. In this study, information gathered was synthesized regarding three issues: first-generation students, working adult students, and the influences of Central and South-Central Appalachian regional culture. The theory used to guide this study is resilience as it relates to the educational persistence of working, adult, first-generation college students in Appalachia. The complexity of life experiences was generally defined as the many life situations that the participants encounter in the pursuit of a degree. A rich, descriptive portrayal of the target population’s complex lives was revealed through interviews with 11 individuals, a journaling exercise completed about their educational experiences, and focus groups. The information gathered, as seen through a cultural profile developed of the region, was explored for commonalities and themes to give voice to the students. One enduring theme was the lack of value placed on education in their families. Another distinct theme was poverty, both in their own families of origin, and in the region. An engaging theme was their unrest with living life without a baccalaureate degree. More specifically, they portrayed a strong determination to rise above their circumstances using the vehicle of further education. Next, overcoming the complexities of their lives through resilience. A final theme that surfaced was how their lives had improved after their graduation.