Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Nancy Mansberger

Second Advisor

Dr. Joseph Kretovics

Third Advisor

Dr. Candy McCorkle


DACA, DACA mented students, 2018-2021 political climate, higher education, DACA first generation college student, DACA motivation


Immigration has been a longstanding conversation, or debate, in American politics and society throughout history. Whether, or how much, to embrace immigrant populations into U.S. society has been a source of polarization over time, specifically as related to the handling or treatment of undocumented immigrants. A particularly acute dimension of this issue in the United States is the question of undocumented immigrants who were brought into this country as children illegally by their parents (Council on Foreign Relations, 2021). Efforts to address the needs of this unique population of immigrants have been caught between the historically and widely divergent values held across U.S. citizens, and (not surprisingly) within U.S. politics (Council on Foreign Relations, 2021; U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, 2021).

This study examines the experience of five undocumented young adults coming of age and making their way in U.S. higher education at time of unique social and political turmoil, against the backdrop of the evolving attempts of U.S. legislators to define and design solutions for undocumented immigrants who have grown up in the U.S. The purpose of this phenomenological study is to explore how DACA recipients in higher education make meaning of their experience and how this meaning motivates them to continue to pursue a degree during the current political climate when their fates in the U. S. has yet to be determined. The implications that these findings have for higher education institutions seeking to support or increase the access and success of DACA recipients are discussed in the final chapter.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access