Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Higher and Adult Education


Higher Education

Committee Chair

Katrina Anne Meyer

Committee Member

Beverly G Bond

Committee Member

Jeffery L Wilson

Committee Member

Larry McNeal


The purpose of this grounded theory study was to generate a theory that explained the persistence and attrition of African Americans who integrated a southern, urban university. Using a grounded theory methodology from a constructivist paradigm, the following research questions guided this study: (a) What factors contribute to African Americans staying and graduating from an institution he or she integrated? and (b) What are the reasons participants identify for departure from the institution? Data were collected using in-depth unstructured interviews, document analysis, and the co-construction of knowledge between the researcher and the participants. Seven individuals participated in this study. The participants identified four factors that contributed to their graduation and three factors that resulted in their departure. The factors that encouraged the participants to persist and graduate were strong commitment and intent to graduate, self-motivation and determination, the socialization received from the mother, and parental and community support and encouragement. Three factors influenced the participants to depart the institution: unfriendly campus climate, lack of fit with the collegiate environment, and having achieved the goal of integrating the institution.The emergent grounded theory indicated the participants’ decision to attend was based on cost of attendance, parental and community encouragement, and the opportunity to right an injustice. After enrolling in the institution, the decision about whether to stay or depart was based on parental and community involvement, institutional fit and attitude, and campus climate. These results are both similar and divergent from results of other research studies conducted in higher education on student persistence and attrition.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.