Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, PhD

Committee Chair

George, Casey

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Alagaraja, Meera

Committee Member

Alagaraja, Meera

Committee Member

Charron, Kerry

Committee Member

Gerber, Erin

Author's Keywords

College transition; STEM; Appalachian


This phenomenological qualitative study examines the lived experience of fourteen rural Appalachian Kentucky (AKY) students studying STEM at an urban university. This study seeks to investigate the unique experiences of AKY students transitioning to STEM majors in college and examines the common factors between their transitional experience into college while addressing compounding factors of a rigorous STEM major and a new cultural setting at an urban institution. This study utilizes Schlossberg’s transitional theory as the framework for analysis. Four key themes emerged from this data: a need for a strong support system, academic preparation, university focus on support and interventions, as well as individual adaptation. Key findings include a strong emphasis for support from both family and university is needed to enhance the adaptation throughout the transitional experience.