Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Maike Philipsen


While quantitative research has determined that first-generation college students (FGS) are less likely to interact with faculty than are their non-FGS peers, this qualitative study examines how incoming first-year college students, both FGS and non-FGS, perceive faculty-student interaction and whether they consider it important. Addressing different types of interaction with college instructors, both in-class and out-of-class, participants across a range of FGS status shared their views through surveys, individual interviews, and focus groups. Focusing specifically on incoming first year students, this study also explores the motives for, impediments to, and encouragements to faculty-student interaction that students identify. Finally, the study examines the origins of students’ perceptions of such interactions. It finds that FGS and non-FGS come to college with different cultural and social capital pertaining to this, and that non-FGS have a greater familiarity with the field and expected habitus of college. However, FGS demonstrate an ability to access their social capital in order to obtain valuable knowledge that informs their perceptions of college and of faculty-student interaction. Further, in the focus groups, FGS described emerging comfort with faculty over the course of their first months of college. The origins of students’ perceptions often differed, as non-FGS were more likely to describe being influenced by family, while FGS more often explained how they accessed their social capital in order to obtain cultural capital and practical knowledge regarding college and faculty-student interaction. Meanwhile, FGS’ and non-FGS’ motives for interacting with faculty, and the impediments and encouragements they identified, were frequently similar. The motives included their desire to learn and share opinions, as well as their interest in obtaining letters of recommendation in the future, while comfort with classmates and faculty and interest in class were commonly named as encouragements to interact with faculty.


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