Date Approved


Degree Type

Campus Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher, Ph.D., Co-Chair

Committee Member

Raul Leon, Ph.D., Co-Chair

Committee Member

David Anderson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yvonne Callaway, Ph.D.


This phenomenological study explored how recent college graduates navigated from school to work during a recent economic downturn. More specifically, the study endeavored to understand the lived experiences of recent college graduates in a period of transition. Schlossberg's (1984) transition theory and Arnett's (2000) emerging adult theory framed the study. The conceptual underpinnings of both theories provided a foundation to understand the role of higher educational attainment in graduates' time spent in the labor market to secure employment in dismal employment conditions. The heuristic value of each of the theories advanced understanding of the factors shaping the experiences of recent college graduates. Participants' emic stories provided expansion of the school-to-work phenomenon typically relegated to statistical reporting in terms of quantifiable unemployment and underemployment rates. Interview data from nine participants were transcribed and coded to determine emerging themes. Themes were aligned with the concepts within transition theory and emerging adult theory to increase understanding of issues facing recent college graduates in transition to employment. The analysis of participants' lived experiences expanded the educational leadership knowledge base to impact praxis by highlighting how recent emerging adult college graduates compete for jobs post-graduation within an anemic labor market. By expanding the breadth of specialized knowledge, the information captures what is essential to empower emerging adult college graduates entering a labor market influenced by record unemployment and suggests ways to further career development. This study documented the shift in the roles and responsibilities in the school-to-work phase, and the employment issues of a cadre of recent emerging adult college graduates who were influenced by the economic recession of 2007 and its impact on the present. The study discovered that although emerging adulthood is defined as age-based, a new category isolating the breadth of understanding for emerging adult college graduates is crucial to document the impact of dismal employment trends. The phenomenon has expanded the knowledge base by identifying how to organize resources of academic or student affairs and career centers to maximize how to offer services relevant to today's emerging adult college graduates.