Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair/Advisor

Robin Kowalski

Committee Member

Robert Sinclair

Committee Member

Patrick Rosopa

Committee Member

Abigail Browning


Despite graduate students working hard and sacrificing various aspects of their lives (e.g., social time, personal time) to attend graduate school, an estimated 50% fail to complete their degrees (e.g., Gilmore et al., 2016). The literature varies in its explanations for graduate students discontinuing their education; however, consensus indicates improving social aspects of the graduate program experience (e.g., positive research communities) may increase graduation rates. These findings are especially true for students who are new to their graduate program. Although there has been a recent emphasis on understanding some social aspects of the graduate student experience, the literature lacks information that relates the social-psychological construct of mattering in these experiences. Put briefly, mattering involves the extent to which individuals feel significant or valued to others; the extent to which they feel as though they make a difference in the world (i.e., the environment) around them. To investigate the likely relationship between mattering and graduation intentions, the following dissertation surveyed approximately 5,000 graduate students about factors that may influence their likelihood of completing their graduate degree, with a response rate of 7 percent (n = 341). Specifically, this study investigated (1) whether mattering positively predicts graduation intentions, and (2) whether placement in program (i.e., Entrance, Midpoint, Exit) moderates the relationship between mattering and graduation intentions. The results suggest that social mattering (b = 0.22, p < .01) is a significant predictor of graduation intentions, whereas the other components of mattering (societal, achievement, recognition) were non-significant predictors. Placement in program did not moderate the relationship; however, placement in program did significantly predict graduation intentions, such that those that were newer to their program reported higher intentions than those in the midpoint or exit of their programs. Recommendations based on these findings are provided to help improve the graduate student experience at Clemson University.

Author ORCID Identifier



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