Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Andrea L. Beach


Small faith-based liberal arts institutions are increasingly focused on recruitment and retention because it is critical to their existence. Because these institutions are completely enrollment driven, the numbers of students who persist through to their second year of college is a necessary administrative focus. Scholars have found that interactions between students and members of the institution, especially faculty, are critical to student persistence during the first year of College. Research has also demonstrated that academic advising plays an important role in first-year student persistence. A question remains, however, whether students are retained because of time spent with faculty or because of academic advising.

This study was designed to compare different approaches to predicting and influencing student persistence. Three primary approaches to advising were implemented in an experimental design: prescriptive, developmental, and strengths-based advising. The study also incorporated the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and student demographic characteristics. This study sought to determine the significance of three influences to student retention; personality, institutional faculty advising, and student development utilization of the Clifton StrengthsFinder (TM) inventory.

The study employed a randomized experimental design, in which 156 students completed the study. All participants completed the MBTI as a regular part of their freshman seminar. The control group (N=64) received the institution's normal advising process of assistance. Intervention group 1 (N=41) received extra time with a specific faculty member. Intervention group 2 (N=51) received the Clifton StrengthsFinder (TM) inventory and extra time with a trained Clifton StrengthsFinder (TM) member of the student development staff.

Persistence to the second semester, and registration for the second year was compared among the study groups. It was found that only intervention group 2, who received the Clifton StrengthsFinder (TM) inventory and extra time with a trained member of the student development staff, had a statistically significantly higher persistence when predicting who intended to return for their second year of college. No other study variable was significant.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access