Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Teaching, Learning, and Leadership


African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian doctoral students continue to have attrition rates substantially higher than their White counterparts (Lovitts, 2001). Attrition was defined as the act of weakening or exhausting by constant harassment, abuse, or attack (Merriam-Webster, 2004). Research todate on this topic has focused on causes and barriers that can be attributed to mainstream groups, not on particular cultural barriers that may adversely affectdoctoral persistence among underrepresented groups. This study collected the lived experiences of these students at three separate university settings and turned them into conceptualized statements in an effort to understand the meaning of their experiences in post-secondary institutions.

It was found that cultural and institutional barriers at early levels of education greatly impacted underrepresented students' abilities to successfully integrate into doctoral programs. The underlying assumption was that these students' attrition from doctoral programs was anchored in a lack of finances. However, not having an insider's knowledge on the doctoral process had more impact, caused heightened perceptions of racism and alienation, and proved a leading cause of ineffective relationships among underrepresented and dominant group members.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access