School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


David Vacchi


Military Spouse, Social Support, Emotional Support, Instrumental Support, Academic Persistence


Educational Leadership


The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenology was to understand the supportive experiences of military spouse students who academically persist to graduation. The theory guiding this study was Bean and Metzner’s non-traditional undergraduate student attrition model. Drawing from House’s social support definition that defines different types of support, this study’s central research question asked what role support played in the academic persistence of undergraduate military spouses. Sub-questions asked how emotional and instrumental support affected academic persistence with military spouse students. How emotional and instrumental support affected academic persistence during military separations was also asked. Eleven current and past military spouse students participated in this study. All participants completed an interview, while most participants participated in focus groups and a letter-writing activity. The data collected was analyzed using Moustakas' modified van Kaam method. The study found that emotional and instrumental support aided academic persistence when military spouse students were aware of and participated in military-provided services and when military units contacted and provided support during military separations or deployments. A sense of community was a welcomed type of support but was lacking with most participants. Finally, most of the participant’s extended family was supportive during military separations and significantly influenced the military spouse student’s academic persistence. The knowledge gained from participants’ experiences can encourage the creation of supportive services that cater to this population’s unique needs and challenges and positively affect future academic persistence in higher education.