Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

James Barott, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Elizabeth Broughton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ronald Flowers, Ed.D.


The purposes of this study were to (a) explore undergraduate students’ experiences as they transitioned to the university, (b) explore how the cultures of students’ hometowns influenced student culture at the university, and (c) provide a conceptual model which has analytical generalizability across higher education.

This ethnographic research focuses on developing a cultural knowledge of hometown community culture. While previous research examined how college affects students, this research reverses the approach and investigates how the students and their hometown community values actually affect the college community. To investigate these topics, I did ethnographic observation including trips to students’ hometowns and conducted in-depth interviews with 21 diverse students to learn about their matriculation process and how hometown culture(s) affected their entry into Eastern Michigan University.

To examine the hometown cultural environment and the institutional cultural environment, I used ten cultural categories including (a) demographics, (b) tasks/jobs, (c) income, (d) family structure, (e) education, (f) physical environment, safety, and security, (g) ideology, (h) activities, entertainment, and rituals, (i) schools, and (j) extracurricular activities. Comparing hometown cultural environment to institutional cultural environment resulted in either a match or a mismatch; a mismatch was termed a “surprise” for students. I discovered that students must make sense of the institutional environment when they matriculate to the university. Adaptation, how individuals construct reality and interpret situations, is a significant process for undergraduate students at the institution. Since students come from different communities in southeast Michigan and have different experiences prior to their collegiate experience, they experience different surprises and react to these surprises in different ways.

This study, which examined students’ organizational entry from a hometown in southeast Michigan to EMU, found that students experience a surprise once at the institution. As a result of the surprises, students adapted in one of two ways, either behaviors which resulted in integration or segregation. The adaptation process is an ongoing process, which is initiated by incongruencies between a student’s hometown culture and the campus culture (i.e., mismatches or surprises). Overall, this research has helped me better understand the needs, perspectives, and aspirations of the students whom I serve.


Additional committee member: Derrick Gragg, Ed.D.