Educational Administration, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2015


A. Kinney-Walker, The Role of Student Identity in Upward Bound Graduates Persistence in College. EdD diss., Department of Educational Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 2015.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate School at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Elizabeth Niehaus. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Allison Jo Kinney-Walker


The purpose of this multiple case study was to understand the role of Upward Bound graduates’ identities as students in their decision to persistence in college. The central research question for the qualitative case study was: What role do Upward Bound graduates’ identities as students play in their persistence in college? Theories of persistence (Astin, 1984; Bean, 1980; Tinto, 1975) and identity development (Abes, Jones, & McEwen, 2007; Jones & McEwen, 2000) particularly, student identity centrality (Bowman & Felix, 2014), framed this study.

A multiple case study design was used. Four Upward Bound graduates who were currently enrolled in their second year of college were the cases in this study. Interviews, observations, and documents were collected and analyzed. Individual case studies were explored using rich, thick description.

The findings of this study included four convergent themes that emerged from the cross-case analysis. The themes included: (a) being a student is one identity among many, (b) being a student is a means to an end, (c) students persist in the face of challenges, and (d) Upward Bound provides an environment conducive to forming a student identity. The most significant finding was that although student identity was important to all of the participants, high student identity centrality was not a critical component to persistence. In light of the findings, several recommendations are offered for college personnel, including: (a) recognize the multiple identities of students and provide opportunities for students to express their multiple identities; (b) help students discover and articulate their particular purpose or end goal for enrolling in college; (c) provide opportunities for exploration; (d) create small learning communities on campus and provide an environment where these students can study, work on homework, and utilize tutors; (e) provide students with mentors. Recommendations for Upward Bound staff, and others who work with college access programs, were also included: (a) help participants identify their motivations for pursuing a college degree, (b) provide opportunities for exploration, and (c) provide opportunities for participants to develop strong student behaviors.

Advisor: Elizabeth Kathleen Niehaus