Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

D. Eric Archer, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Donna Talbot, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Alisa Perkins, Ph.D.


Adult students, hermeneutic phenomenology, higher education, international education, international female Muslim students, student mothers


The literature on adult students, and in particular, graduate students with children, reveals that female students often struggle to balance their studies and home life due to juggling multiple roles. To date, research on student mothers has primarily focused on domestic students, with few studies examining the experiences of international student mothers, and even fewer studying Muslim international student mothers. The purpose of this study was to understand the lived experiences of female Muslim international graduate students with children in the U.S., as well as to explore the coping strategies they employ in both academia and family life. Thus, the goal of this study was to fill this knowledge gap. This study employed hermeneutic phenomenology to gain a better understanding of the participants’ lived experiences. Additionally, this study used the lenses of postmodern feminist theory and adult personal resilience theory to interpret the collected data. Six Muslim international graduate student mothers from various countries participated in three consecutive interviews. The results revealed the emergence of six superordinate themes: (1) it’s a double-edged sword; (2) having a sense of urgency; (3) physical and mental strain; (4) being discriminated against; (5) in need of a social support system; and (6) being resilient. Based on these findings, the study presented implications for practice and future research, which may be useful for faculty, student services staff, and policymakers in higher education to provide better support and policies to ensure the retention and success of this population of students.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access