First Advisor

Rodriguez, Katrina

Second Advisor

Gimmestad, Michael J.

Document Type


Date Created



Research indicates that students from first-generation and low-income backgrounds persist and graduate from college at lower rates than their non-first generation peers. Institutions of higher education can create more welcoming and success-promoting environments for first-generation students by helping them connect with faculty, particularly through mentoring relationships. This research explored the motivations of faculty from first-generation backgrounds who mentored first-generation college students within the federally-funded Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. Informed by constructivist epistemology and transcendental phenomenological theory as well as Bourdieu's (1986) theory of cultural capital, the phenomenon involving the transition into academe for such first-generation faculty was also explored. Six faculty participants were purposefully selected through contact with McNair program administrators at a doctoral research extensive university in the Rocky Mountain region enrolling a significant proportion of students from primarily rural areas and first-generation, low-income backgrounds. The five primary themes include: illustrations of teaching and mentoring, first-generation status, inspirations for mentoring, strategies for mentoring, and challenges in academe. These themes were further organized by corresponding subthemes and several recommendations for practice are discussed. These include assessing the needs and expectations of McNair faculty mentors and scholars, encouraging peer mentoring networks, inviting seasoned McNair mentors to orient new mentors, acknowledging the importance of mentoring in faculty tenure and promotion decisions, thoughtfully assessing existing student services prior to implementing new ones, and providing opportunities for faculty and students to share their stories. In its entirety, this research provides a deeper understanding of the experiences of and challenges faced by faculty from first-generation backgrounds.


College teachers -- Attitudes, First-generation college students, Mentoring


219 pages

Local Identifiers

ChaseDissertation 2010

Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.