School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Todd W. Schultz


first-generation student, adjunct instructor, academic development, sense of belonging, academic development




The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore how the first-generation student describes the meaning of developing a relationship with adjunct instructors at a community college and how this relationship influences their academic development and institutional sense of belonging. For the purpose of this study, the first-generation student and adjunct faculty relationship was defined as the formal and informal contact between the student and the faculty member. The theory guiding this study was that of proximal process and campus ecology developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner (1979) as it explores the importance of how the student’s environment and relationships influence their academic growth and sense of belonging while attending an institution of higher education. This study was conducted by use of semi-structured interviews after completion of a qualifying screener to ensure all data was purely from the perspective of the first-generation students, with their statements organized into themes. Participants shared both positive and negative interactions with adjunct instructors that impacted relationship development and their overall sense of belonging at the institution they attended, identifying the lack of communication and engagement as a core issue.

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