Date of Conferral





Human Services


Gregory Hickman


There is a lack of research on the academic resilience of minority, first-generation, online doctoral students (MFOD) who experienced poverty and parental substance abuse (PSA). The purpose of this study was to explore how MFOD who overcame poverty and PSA developed academic resilience. Resilience theory and Kember's model of attrition in online programs provided a conceptual framework for this study. The research questions guiding this qualitative study concerned how MFOD perceive and interpret their academic resilience and protective factors. A purposeful sample of 6 students participated in semistructured interviews. An interpretative phenomenological analysis was conducted, which included a case by case analysis, and a cross-case analysis. Results indicate that academic resilience is perceived as (a) determination, (b) evolving realization of the value of education, (c) paving the way for others, and (d) leveraging strengths to succeed in an online doctoral program. Protective factors are perceived as (a) resilience in adversity, (b) mindset about school, (c) identity resilience, and (d) transformational experiences. The results of this study reveal that the participants learned to see themselves beyond the context of their immediate environments. Positive social change implications include improving existing social policy to aggressively target high-poverty school districts and communities with PSA. More specifically, at-risk minority students would benefit from targeted interventions focused on family engagement in education and school retention.