Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey

Second Advisor

Dr. Amanda Pascale

Third Advisor

Dr. Cheryll Albold

Fourth Advisor

Dr. E. Newton Jackson

Department Chair

Dr. Amanda Pascale

College Dean

Dr. Daniel L. Dinsmore


Maintaining and increasing student retention is a challenge for small institutions especially small private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). There are factors which contribute to this problem of practice and solutions that could increase student retention given more research and analysis. The purpose of this instrumental case study was to explore and examine the campus professional-student relationships to better understand the first-generation/first-time college student’s experience and how these relationships may influence their retention. This study examined the experiences of three Edward Waters University students to understand a problem of practice experienced at Edward Waters University and many others, student retention. The primary research questions for this study included: (1) How do first-generation/first-time college HBCU students enrolled between 2018 and 2022 describe their campus professional-student relationships? (2) How have the experiences within the campus professional-student relationships influenced their retention? The data collected included two semi-structured interviews with each participant conducted over a three-month period. Findings are presented in the form of narratives, themes, and assertions. The themes emerged by looking across the participants’ narratives and were developed into assertions after a thorough analysis and triangulation of the data. Assertion One identified that a meaningful campus professional-student relationship that supports retention includes behaviors that foster change, accountability, and connection. Assertion Two captured the role of leadership, call to service, and institutional pride as vehicles for supporting student retention. Finally, Assertion Three provided insight into how working through trouble with a trusted mentor served as a vehicle for change that supported retention. In combination, these three assertions illustrate key behaviors or activities of these relationships and how mentor-like relationships intentionally entered into by campus professionals and students had a strong influence on students’ retention choices. The study concludes with a discussion of the limitations of findings, implications and recommendations for practice, and recommendations for future research.