Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Earl E. Thomas


Efforts to improve retention and graduation rates of African American male students in higher education have largely been unsuccessful despite the design and delivery of special courses. During the 2017 academic year, after completion of a college success seminar (CSS), the retention rates for African American male students at a Midwestern community college was only 14% compared to 33% for Hispanic and 60% for Caucasian males. The purpose of this study was to examine the perspectives of African American male students engaged in a CSS course to discover what they perceived to be a major influence on the retention of their population in the community college. The conceptual framework for this study was Tinto’s model on student integration and motivation, self-determination, transition, resilience, and satisfaction. Research questions posed how African American male students connected the experience gained in the CSS course with degree completion and if the course provided the support for program retention. A qualitative case study design using face-to-face interviews was used. Individual interviews were conducted with 20 African American male student participants enrolled in CSS during the fall of 2018. The resulting qualitative data were coded manually and entered using NVivo Software. Data analysis included developing codes, categories, themes, and interpreting the findings. Results showed that participants perceived mentorship to be a major factor related to their motivation and persistence. These findings resulted in the recommendation of a mentorship component being added to the CSS curriculum. The implementation of a mentorship component can drive social change in support of students who need mentoring at the local community college and other institutions of higher education in support of retention and successful degree completion.