Credentials Display

Karen McCarthy, OTD, OTR/L; Kevin Chavez, OTS; Krysta Gastelum, OTS; Javier Gomez, OTS; Jacqueline Salas, OTS; Yashi Severson, OTS; Jamie Zabat, OTS


Background: First-generation college students (FGCS) represent an underserved population navigating higher education. There is a current gap in the literature regarding the interaction of occupational experiences, imposter phenomenon (IP), and FGCS. The purpose of this study is to use grounded theory to explore the occupational experience of IP among FGCS enrolled in a four-year university in California.

Method: This research is a qualitative study using grounded theory. Data was collected through a screening survey and interview with 11 participants who identified as FGCS.

Results: Thematic analysis generated five themes: (a) emotional aspects of IP, (b) collectivism, (c) balance, (d) communities of belonging, (e) othering. The theory of othering was created using grounded theory. FGCS's sense of being extended beyond the individual to the collective. Imposter phenomenon and intersectionality contributed to barriers to belonging. Although THE participants still experienced othering at the university level, they created smaller communities with peers where they felt they belonged.

Conclusion: This study contributes to occupational science literature by expanding the understanding of occupational experiences regarding IP. The theory of othering can be used by those working with FGCS to address othering and enhance belonging.


The authors declare that they have no competing financial, professional, or personal interest that might have influenced the performance or presentation of the work described in this manuscript.