Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

Samuel F Stack

Committee Co-Chair

Charline Barnes Rowland

Committee Member

Mary K Devono

Committee Member

Patricia Obenauf

Committee Member

Neal Shambaugh


The study examines the transitional experiences of Appalachian first-generation students during their first year of college. Because first-generation status, alone, has a negative affect on student persistence (Ishitani, 2003; Paulsen & Martin Lohfink, 2005), this phenomenological inquiry explores perceptions and experiences of separation and adjustment as expressed by students through semi-structured interviews with Tinto's Theory of Student Departure (1993) as a theoretical framework. Tinto's theory states that students arrive at college with personal attributes, as well as intentions and commitment, however it is their perception of their transition from home culture into the college that can affect persistence. This study examined students' journey through stages of separation and adjustment---social and academic---within the institution. Findings revealed their transition to be not unlike those of traditional students. Further analysis reveals themes of college scale and size, personal transformation, communication technology, and being first-generation. First hand student accounts provided a qualitative dimension to the large number of existing studies, giving voice to an underrepresented population, better informing policies for higher education and public high schools.