The Impact of Community for Part-Time Doctoral Students: How Relationships in the Academic Department Affect Student Persistence

Sarah Zahl
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 10  •  2015  •  pp. 301-321
This study examines the ways that part-time Ph.D. students develop community within the academic department and how a sense of community is related to persistence. This study included 12 participants (ten students and two program chairs) in two academic departments at one urban research institution. This qualitative study followed a descriptive case study design and provided three levels of data: the institution is the bounded system; the academic departments are the cases; and the participants are embedded cases. Positive relationships with peers and faculty served as a source of encouragement and supported persistence, particularly during challenging semesters and later phases of the doctoral program. However, it was often difficult for the participants to develop and/or maintain relationships, due to limited proximity, limited access to faculty, and changing cohorts. Participants did not consider full-time doctoral students to be part of their community, due to perceived differences between part-time and full-time students. The participants also perceived that faculty catered to full-time students and preferred to conduct research with them rather than part-time students.
doctoral education, part-time Ph.D. students, community, graduate study, persistence
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