Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Advisor

Laurie A. Schreiner, PhD, Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Christopher B. Newman, PhD, Committee Member

Third Advisor

Thomas Hutchison, PhD, Committee Member


Higher education, Ethnic studies, Multicultural education, Religious education, Educational evaluation


Graduation rates of students of color in the United States remain virtually unchanged, despite 50 years of institutions implementing programs and services to increase success among students of color (de Brey et al., 2019). The disparity in undergraduate degree completion rates between White college students and students of color indicates systemic barriers to student success remain pervasive. This qualitative study employs hermeneutic phenomenology to analyze and interpret the lived experiences of 10 thriving students of color at dominantly White faith-based institutions. Schreiner’s (2010a) holistic student success construct of thriving and Harper’s (2012a) Anti-Deficit Achievement Framework provide the conceptual frameworks for this study. Six major themes emerged from the data: Relationships Matter; Leadership Opportunities are Important; The Desire to Make a Difference; Racial Climate—Not Yet Where We Need to Be; Hope and Positive Perspective—The Spiritual Connection; and Get to Know Me. The most prominent theme, Relationships Matter, related to the role relationships played in students’ perceptions of their thriving. Findings indicated overlapping layers of support and encouragement from multiple sources influence thriving, as does the sacrificial nature of the support received from parents. The junior and senior students of color beat the odds by thriving on a dominantly White campus and progressing toward completing their degrees. The implications of these findings relate to thriving in students of color and making their campus a place they can call home. Practitioners should (a) ask students of color what makes them feel at home on their campus and initiate changes; (b) provide leadership opportunities for students of color; (c) examine and evaluate institutional integrity and commitment to student welfare; (d) hire additional administrators, faculty, 8 and staff of color; (e) recruit and admit more students of color; (f) provide professional development in pathways to thriving for faculty and staff; (g) determine the pathways to thriving for their students of color; and (h) treat others with love and kindness.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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