Graduation Year


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Katie Lewis, PhD

Second Reader

Jennifer Lucko, PhD


This research demonstrates that first-generation college students excel when they can be open to new spaces, people, and experiences and have access to robust support systems and the necessary resources to build solid personal self-efficacy. The intentionality behind this research is grounded in students finding their agency and self- efficacy to become strong and confident leaders within their communities and future workplaces. One of the theoretical frameworks this research touches on is Vince Tinto’s interactionalist theory of student persistence, which identifies the importance of academic and social integration in higher education students. All six participants in the study were in their early twenties; most were female and Hispanic or Latino/a identifying. All participants were current students at the same small, private, four-year university and had no immediate family members who attended any form of higher education. Qualitative data was collected through in-depth, 1-1 interviews; throughout the interviews, relevant reactions, themes, and environmental factors were noted and analyzed. Some relevant findings were that first-generation students struggle with the willpower to continue through school due to constant barriers and a lack of support and resources. This leads to feelings of imposter syndrome, and students who utilized resources effectively had higher self-efficacy and enjoyment of their higher education experience.

IRB Number