Date of Conferral







Delfina Ashley-Baisden


Many first-generation students (FGS) succumb to challenges and barriers and ultimately give up on their educational goals. Little is known about FGS who graduate and are successful in their discipline. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore factors that influenced the persistence of FGS who graduated and are employed in the healthcare field. The theoretical framework consisted of experiential learning, identity development and environmental influence, and social cognitive career theories. The research questions focused on how FGS made decisions to graduate, interpreted their academic learning experiences, and perceived academic support received in the college environment. Data was collected from questionnaires designed by the researcher and emailed to 12 participants, and from college retention, enrollment, licensure, and safety and security reports. Data analysis involved open and axial coding and application of the NVivo software package, whereby 8 themes emerged. Findings indicated that (a) family support, mastering a skill, and challenges and academic successes supported FGS' decisions to graduate; (b) inspiration, vocational interest, and self-awareness defined and described FGS' academic learning experiences; and, (c) faculty and student engagement and environmental support revealed the academic support FGS received in the college environment. The study suggested ways in which the persistence of FGS in community college healthcare programs can be improved. Implications for future research into variables that influence the persistence of FGS were discussed. Improving the retention of FGS and widening the pool of community healthcare workers can impact positive social change by contributing to social welfare and economic development.