Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




David Mathieu


Student retention in higher education, specifically after the first year, has long been a focus of institutional strategies, especially among students with financial, academic, and social risk factors. The issue of retention was a priority for administration at the 4-year private Sea Port University, a historically black university in the southern United States, which is the focus of this case study. The university has shown a rapid decline in its retention rate since the period 2008 - 2012. The purpose of this study was to identify students' perceptions of factors in their Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) experience and the influence on retention. The theoretical framework was Chickering and Chickering and Reisser's psychosocial theory of development. Terenzini and Reason's college impact model was the conceptual framework. A qualitative research design using case study methodology was utilized. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 8 African American full-time students who had completed at least one year at Sea Port University. Data analysis included an inductive thematic analysis. The findings indicated students were positively influenced by culturally responsive factors in their HBCU experiences such as developing a sense of lineage in the organizational context, which were reflective of elements of the theoretical and conceptual frameworks. A white paper with suggestions for building organizational contexts was constructed as a project. The findings are central to the provision of an all-encompassing environment for the successful matriculation of African American students, thus influencing positive social change for the students at the institution, in the local area, and at other historically black colleges and universities throughout the nation.