Education Doctorate

Year Approved


First Advisor

Lindstrom, Michael


Spirituality may be a factor in the success of first generation college students. Leading spiritual development theories were built on the dominant population of continuing generation college students. This qualitative research explored the spirituality and spiritual development of twelve undergraduate first generation college students at two Christian, liberal arts institutions in the Midwest United States during one year of their college education. Throughout the year, participants answered questions and created spiritual ecomaps to illustrate the changing relationships and influences on their spirituality. This research also explored the participants’ definitions of spirituality; their faith development according to Fowler’s (1981) theory; their experiences of academic, social, and emotional success; and their feelings of spiritual similarity and spiritual belonging at home and at college. This research found that first generation college students are pioneers in their education and faith journeys. In both journeys, they are travelling into unknown territory without a guide from home. They are discovering something new, and becoming someone new, which people from home will never completely understand. They need guides to affirm them in their places of questioning, to assist them in discerning truth, to help them form relationships with their peers, to lead them in self-awareness and understanding, and to encourage them in their relationship with God. Attending to spirituality helps first generation college students succeed academically, socially, and emotionally at college. This holistic success prepares students to be holistically successful in their life and work after college.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation