Date Approved

2012

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Elizabeth Broughton, Ed.D, Chair

Committee Member

David Anderson, Ph.D

Committee Member

Robert Orrange, Ph.D

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy, Ph.D

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to understand and explain the overall culture and subcultures of Prairie College (a pseudonym) and how those cultures socialized students to persist or depart from the institution. In accordance with the higher education student retention theory and research of Braxton (2000), Kuh and Love (2000), and Kuh (2001), there is potential for an institution of higher education to serve and retain greater numbers of students when administrators understand the institutional culture (Morgan, 1996; Mintzberg, 1979; Spindler, 1988) in which they work as well as that of students they serve.

Qualitative research methods were used. The study answered three specific research questions: 1) how did students experience the environment/culture of Prairie College; 2) what experiences allowed the student to feel she or he belonged or did not belong at Prairie College; and 3) how did the student decide whether or not to persist at Prairie College?

Examination of the institutional and student cultures of Prairie College found that 1) students were satisfied with their relationships with faculty; 2) faculty was the most influential socializing agent of the college’s institutional beliefs and values upon students; 3) faculty teaching and advising were highly valued by students and led to student persistence; 4) students valued the interpersonal intimacy Prairie College provided as a small school; 5) students valued their relationship with family and home communities and did not want to lose their connections; 6) many students desired continuation of the “high school” cultural experience at Prairie College; 7) students did not perceive administrative staff supporting the operational core nor student culture of Prairie College; 8) students desired more social enclaves to improve the overall student culture of the college; and 9) student athletics provided a positive socializing environment for students, but students who did not participate in athletics were excluded from this socialization.

The overall result of individual faculty, staff, and student observations and interviews brought clarity to how students experienced Prairie College and where a cultural match among the historical, faculty, staff, and student cultures occurred, potentially promoting student persistence.

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