Document Type

Doctor of Education Capstone

Original Publication Date



University of Mary Washington


Fredericksburg, VA

Date of Submission

May 2022


Higher education institutions are facing increasing pressure to find new ways to attract, retain, and graduate the diverse populations of college students. As a result, colleges and universities need to adapt to the changing demographics of students who benefit from more sustained and engaged forms of support that are responsive to their specific social, cultural, and economic backgrounds. This sequential mixed methods study seeks to understand the ways in which the University of Mary Washington serves its underrepresented students in order to develop strategies to enhance the recruitment and retention of Black, Hispanic/Latinx, low-income, and first-generation college students. Building on the literature on retention and persistence, sense of belonging, and organizational change, researchers developed a student sense of belonging survey, an organizational readiness for change assessment, and conducted focus group discussions with UMW students. In particular, the project sought to understand the current institutional culture regarding inclusion and sense of belonging for underrepresented students. This study's findings inform how the University of Mary Washington can better facilitate the recruitment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented students.


© The Authors