Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

Jeffrey Carver

Committee Member

James Rye

Committee Member

Johnna Bolyard

Committee Member

Gay Stewart


This study focuses on the factors that enable and threaten rural first-generation STEM students’ persistence. Limited empirical studies are available that focus on rural first-generation STEM majors’ persistence. Quantitative analysis was conducted using Kruskal Wallis H and Mann-Whitney U tests to determine any significant differences with the survey results. Content and thematic analysis was conducted on the student and faculty interviews to determine themes of enabling and threatening factors affecting persistence.

Enabling factors affecting persistence were found to be: Drive or Motivation, Experiences and skills, and Support. These were both faculty and student interview themes whereas a fourth theme from the faculty was, Personal characteristics.

For the threatening factors, three similar themes came from the student and faculty interviews. The first related themes were the faculty’s belief of Institutional environment and faculty which related to the student theme of Drive. Faculty mentioned Lack of preparation as a threatening factor to student persistence, which correlates to the student theme of lacking Experiences or skills. Both students and faculty discussed how the lack of Support or Resources can be an adverse condition to completing a STEM degree. Another theme that was only found in the faculty interviews was that rural first-generation college (RFGC) students experience More challenges than others, those that are not RFGC students.

Drive or motivation, experiences and skills, along with support and resources impact a student’s ability to adapt to the demands of college.