Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Franklin A. Tuitt, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Lyndsay J. Agans

Third Advisor

Lynn Gangone

Fourth Advisor

Susan Manning


Critical race feminism, Grounded theory, Nontraditional students, Persistence


While women maintain a numerical majority in undergraduate college enrollments and degrees earned, they also represent the numerical majority among students over 29 years old, students of color, students who are in the lowest income category, students who are single parents, and students who attend college part-time (Peter & Horn, 2005; Planty, et al., 2008). The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) has identified seven characteristics that place students at risk of not completing an undergraduate degree; (a) delayed enrollment between high school and college, (b) part-time enrollment, (c) financial independence, (d) students with dependents, (e) students who are single parents, (f) students who work full-time while enrolled, and (g) students who completed a GED as opposed to earning a high school diploma (Choy, 2002; Dickerson & Stiefer, 2006; Horn & Premo, 1995). The above characteristics overlap with the categories where women have a numerical majority, thereby placing women in greater jeopardy of not completing a bachelor's degree.

A review of the existing persistence literature demonstrates a lack of research devoted to understanding the persistence experiences, challenges, strategies, and decisions of nontraditional undergraduate in favor of the "traditional" undergraduate student (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Reason 2003). For this doctoral dissertation, I have based the research on a critical race feminist framework, informed by my experience working with the population of nontraditional undergraduate women at a women's college and employed a critique of the persistence literature as sensitizing concepts. Using a modified grounded theory research design, I collected and analyzed data which led to the development of a grounded theory of nontraditional undergraduate women's persistence. The emergent concepts of commitment, environment, and support interact in a theory of academic momentum and I offer a critical race feminist reading of the findings and theory to expose race neutrality, honor the voices of women of color, and deconstruct the evidence presented. The implications of this research include student, institutional, and inclusive excellence approaches to increasing the persistence of nontraditional undergraduate women and contribute to the success of this unique population of learners.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Danielle Ferioli Sulick


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

283 p.


Higher Education