Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Gerardo Blanco Ramirez

Second Advisor

Ray Franke

Third Advisor

Karri A. Holley


While numerous studies have attempted to understand issues related to the first-generation doctoral student status, this study explored the identity formation of these students and revealed the successful strategies they used to complete their degree. Despite the endemic challenges first-generation doctoral students faced, many do succeed and graduate. Providing insight into their academic journey and their identity-formation to success by individual testimony of how these students succeed, how they theorized their identity as doctoral students, and how they identified as scholars, will assist in filling this gap in the existing literature. The purpose of this qualitative study is to examine identity formation on first-generation doctoral students within the context of multiple doctoral programs at a single institution in the United States. To better understand the identity formation of these students I used a combination of interviews, document analysis, and informal observations assist in better understanding the contexts in which identity formation takes place and the processes that help the students toward success.

A total of twenty four doctoral students at one public university were interviewed for the study. This included thirteen academic disciplines ranging from fields in social sciences, humanities, and hard sciences, as well as a professional discipline, education. Recommendations for reform in the practices of doctoral education, allowing for more structure, guidance, and support of the students for their success as well as further research are also presented.


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