Relationships between First Generation College Students and Faculty: A Case Study of a Small Rural Private University
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University of Washington Abstract Relationships between first-generation college students and faculty: A case study of a small rural liberal arts university Ricardo Valdez Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Associate Professor Joe Lott College of Education The purpose of this qualitative case study is to describe the relationships between first-generation college students and faculty through their own experiences at this rural private four-year institution. It is well documented that positive outcomes are linked with faculty-student interaction which include grade point average (Anaya and Cole 2001), persistence (Pascarella and Terenzini, 1977), self-reports of learning (Lundberg and Schreiner 2004), plans for graduate study (Hathaway et al. 2002), social integration/adjustment (Schwitzer et al. 1999) and many other valuable outcomes as cited in Cox, McIntosh, Terenzini and Reason (2010). The research questions focused on the development and reciprocal outcomes of faculty-student relationships specific to first-generation students. Ten first –generation college students and six faculty were interviewed along with informal observations and document analysis. Data from the participants were gathered through semi-structured interviews, field notes, documents and informal observations. This triangulation of data was used to find themes and findings for this study. The results of this study found that initiation by faculty was a crucial tone-setter in the beginning phases of the developed relationship between faculty and students. Furthermore, shared lived experiences by both parties coupled with validation and increasing student self-efficacy by faculty contributed to minimizing the cultural capital deficit and the college intimidation factor. These findings could be used to improve institutional programs that focus on retention rates of first-generation college students, and contribute to the literature of relationships and interactions between faculty and first-generation college students.
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