School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Susan Quindag


natural disaster, persistence, infrastructure, and transcendental phenomenological study


Educational Leadership


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to determine the characteristics of students in higher education who persisted in their studies following the Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico in September 2017. The central research question for this study was: "what are educators’ and students’ perceptions of the characteristics necessary to persist in a difficult environment following a natural disaster?” The theories guiding this study were Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Hobfoll’s conservation of resources theory. This study was conducted as a transcendental phenomenological study utilizing a sample that contained five educators and eight students who attended high schools in Puerto Rico during two hurricanes. The participants must have been a part of the educational system for at least three years prior to Hurricane Maria. The setting was Terra Bonita, a city in Puerto Rico that sustained major infrastructural damage during the hurricanes. Many parts of the city were without power for over a year following the hurricanes. The data collection process involved the following three methods: timelines prepared by the students and faculty participants, semi-structured interviews with the student participants, and a focus group with the faculty participants. The data was analyzed utilizing Braun and Clarke’s thematic analysis. The study yielded four themes and eight sub-themes during data analysis. The themes were socialization, continuing education, desire to stay in Puerto Rico, and barriers to leaving. The sub-themes were concern for one another, the need for normalcy, schools pre and post hurricanes, future career plans, value of education, characteristics of persistent students, their home, and sense of community.