Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Olinger, Andrea R.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Williams, Bronwyn T.

Committee Member

Boehm, Beth

Committee Member

Mao, LuMing

Author's Keywords

graduate student; identity; rhetoric; composition; enculturation; first-generation


This dissertation responds to the decreasing number of first-generation-to-college doctorates in the humanities and the limited scholarship on graduate students in Rhetoric and Composition. Scholars in Rhetoric and Composition have long been invested in discussions of academic and/or disciplinary enculturation, yet these discussions primarily focus on undergraduate students, with few studies on graduate students and far fewer on the doctoral students training to become the next wave of a profession. In this dissertation, I argue that if we engage intersectional identities as assets in the design of doctoral programs, access to higher education and academic enculturation can become more manageable for students from historically underrepresented or marginalized populations. Through an analysis of themes within semi-structured interviews with 21 Rhetoric and Composition PhD students and recent alumni from two doctoral programs, I investigate how, as the first in their families to attend college, my participants negotiate the professional expectations of graduate study with their personal lives and many other obligations. This project creates new knowledge about how we can increase support for and growth in more diverse student populations. To attain this goal, I use a cultural rhetorics methodology to foreground the underrepresented stories of first-generation-to-college doctoral students, who are among the future leaders of the field. Ultimately, I show how Rhetoric and Composition can rethink how we gain, train, and mentor future teacher-scholars.