Master of Arts in Higher Education (MAHE) Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Todd Ream

Second Advisor

Scott Gaier

Third Advisor

Drew Moser


First-generation college students, individuals seeking to earn a bachelor’s degree and whose parents or guardians do not have post-secondary degrees, are attending college at ever-increasing rates. These students regularly encounter obstacles they must overcome in order to persist and graduate. The purpose of this study was to discover if a relationship exists between retention of first-generation students and living on an integrated residence hall floor. The research occurred as a qualitative phenomenological approach with focus groups, and, after coding and theming the data, three themes—finances, involvement with the floor, and relationships—emerged. During the focus groups, mental health surfaced as a theme of magnitude. Much of the data pointed to relationships as a key component to retention of students. Participants noted misunderstandings with floor mates about finances and over-involvement with the floor as challenges, but deep, meaningful relationships encouraged participants during difficult times. The implications from the research indicate that intentional relationship building may prove a significant aspect to the retention of first-generation students.