Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Barbara J. Blakely


First- and second-year communication classes play an important part in a student's first year of college, a year that is critical to student success because it helps students develop "the college student role" (Collier and Morgan 425). One group of first-year students at risk for struggling with developing "the college student role" is first-generation college students. Like most students, first-generation students harbor certain perceptions about and expectations for college; however, these perceptions and expectations can have a negative impact on a first-generation student's first year of college. This dissertation reports the results of a primary study of first-generation college student participants, their perceptions about college and their generational status, and how that generational status impacts the first- and second- year communication classroom experience.

First-generation students transition to college differently than continuing- or second-generation college students even though the process of disequilibrium, self-authorship, and self-efficacy they undergo may bear many similarities to those of continuing-generation students. However, negative perceptions, expectations, assumptions, and fears carried to college with them can also weigh them down, making experiences that cause disequilibrium more difficult and self-authorship and self-efficacy less likely to occur. Only through learning to self-author and solve problems can students learn to be successful in college, and for first-generation college students, the types of disequilibrium, self-authoring, and self-efficacy experiences dramatically impact this process. Through examining a few classroom-level and institutional contexts, we can see different ways to further work with these students in communication classes.


Copyright Owner

Susan Pagnac



File Format


File Size

247 pages