Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Muninder K. Ahluwalia

Committee Member

W. Matthew Shurts

Committee Member

Leslie Kooyman


The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) college transition experience for first-generation minority students can be arduous. Despite advancements with inclusivity in higher education institutions in the U.S., first-generation college students of color from lowincome households (FGML) find their first-year college transition difficult to navigate. Higher education institutions were created and still are in some ways encapsulated in white, Christian, male ideals (Alenuma-Nimoh, 2016). Therefore, when FGML start their college transition they can feel out of place and can struggle with the academic adjustment in their pursuit of a STEM degree (Bowman & Sharon, 2016; Dika & D’Amico, 2016; Goonewardene, Offutt, Whitling, & Woodhouse, 2016). The goal of this dissertation study was to understand the STEM college transition for FGML. Participants identifying as FGML were recruited to discuss their STEM college experience. Grounded in Critical Race Theory (Crenshaw, Gotanda, Peller, & Thomas, 1995; Haskins & Singh, 2015), this phenomenological, qualitative study included an in-depth, semi-structured interview. A cross section of 10 participants with varying genders, racial compositions, and ethnicities engaged in this study. Findings suggest that the construct of the STEM college transition is not confined to FGML, however FGML have a unique STEM college transition experience. Participants identified being FGML resulted in a dist inct understanding of how STEM college culture with its systemic barriers affected their academic success. Implications for counselor education, higher education and future research were provided.

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