Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Educational Leadership


Havice, Pamela A

Committee Member

Cawthon , Tony

Committee Member

Fleming , David

Committee Member

Gonzales , Leslie


The majority of retention efforts have focused on the first-year of college, however just as many students leave college after their second-year (Berkner, He, & Forest, 2002; Lipka, 2006). Experiences of second-year students have been appearing in publications. These studies have identified the broad concerns of the second-year experience, but little is known about how the second-year experience is similar or different for underrepresented students.
This study sought to describe the experiences of underrepresented college students in their second-year of study at a predominantly White institution (PWI). The study was qualitative in nature, and used phenomenological research methods to form an understanding of these experiences. The study was completed in the 2012-2013 academic year. A total of twelve (12) underrepresented students in their second-year of college participated in focus groups for the study. Eleven students self-identified as being of Black/African American descent and one student identified as being of Latino descent.
The findings revealed five themes related to Yosso's (2005) theory of cultural capital. The five themes were family matters, finding my tribe, the power of commitments, quest for balance, and definition of second-year student success. The five themes culminated into an overarching portrait of the second-year experience for underrepresented college students.
Incorporating structured reflection activities into curricular and co-curricular programs would benefit underrepresented students in that it aids them in making meaning of their curricular and co-curricular experiences. Additionally, utilizing strengths-based approaches to programming would help underrepresented students in their second-year identify the various sources of cultural wealth they bring with them to the college environment (Yosso, 2005). Future studies should focus on incorporating more longitudinal methods of analyzing student transitions. Additionally, utilizing intersectional approaches to understanding identity and incorporating environmental theory could aid with understanding the various contexts within which students situate their college experiences.