Educational Administration, Department of


Date of this Version



Fortune, A. L. (2015). Practical applications for student affairs: A phenomenological exploration of how Black male undergraduate persisters describe retention and social integration at a Midwestern PWI. PhD diss., University of Nebraska.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professors Brent Cejda and Richard E. Hoover. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 André L. Fortune


For decades higher education has incurred challenges with increasing undergraduate retention and degree attainment. Lately these challenges, including focus on increasing Black male undergraduate degree attainment, have become a national concern. Scholars like Vincent Tinto (1987, 1993, 2012) have dedicated research to explain why students leave or stay in college. His findings identified the majority of students voluntarily leave institutions for nonacademic reasons that occur outside of class. On many campuses outside of class experiences, which Tinto labeled social integration, are primarily facilitated by student affairs practitioners.

The concept of social integration as a factor in student retention provided theoretical foundation for the study. The purpose of the investigation was to use a phenomenological approach to qualitatively explore how social integration contributed to retention of Black male undergraduate persisters at one Midwestern predominantly White institution (PWI). Findings from this study provide practical implications for one Division of Student Affairs.

Despite the realities of national challenges retaining and graduating Black male undergraduates there are a number of Black men persisting to earn their degree. Ten Black male undergraduate persisters voluntarily participated in this study to share their lived experiences at a Midwestern PWI. Eight themes and three sub-themes emerged from interpretation of the participants’ lived experiences.

Themes indicated participants in this study had a mixture of inclusive and exclusionary experiences at the PWI. Nevertheless, the theme “Not Leaving” described the essence of this study. Each of the men in this study were not leaving the university without a degree. The participants described that neither negative nor positive social integration would force them to leave or stay at the institution. Consistent with Tinto’s (1987, 1993, 2012) findings, social integration was a plus factor in their retention.

Despite consistency with student departure theory, findings from this study point to some cautions in using the theory. A number of studies have indicated a revision of student departure theory is needed to more fully understand the experiences of minority students at PWIs. Participants’ discussions of living two cultures and reluctance to separate from home communities add support to the call for revision of the theory.

Advisers: Brent Cejda and Richard E. Hoover