Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Yarbrough, Donald

Second Advisor

Ogren, Christine

First Committee Member

England, Sarah K

Second Committee Member

Paulsen, Michael B

Third Committee Member

Wanat, Carolyn L

Fourth Committee Member

Watt, Sherry K


Beginning with the understanding that minority students are often underrepresented in STEM doctoral programs despite their growing proportions in the population, this study provides a description of selected minority doctoral students' experiences in STEM programs. Specifically, this study examines the influence financial support and relationships with faculty advisors and doctoral peers have on doctoral students' experiences and progress. Data for this research were obtained from 13 minority respondents enrolled during spring, summer, and fall 2009 and 73 majority respondents who provided some comparisons and contrasts. The participants were all Ph.D. students from several STEM programs at a research university in the Midwest.

Findings from this study suggest that financial support of doctoral students through fellowships and research/teaching assistantships enables students to interact closely with their faculty and their peers and consequently become integrated into the social and academic systems of their programs. Further, through their experiences in teaching and research minority students report acquiring skills and competencies useful not only for graduate school success (e.g. time management; course reading; dissertation writing) but also for successful transition into their respective professions and careers. Funding takes a different form and plays a different role in shaping students' positive experiences in each of the three stages of doctoral study: fellowships during a student's transition year(s), teaching/research assistants during the middle years, and fellowships during the final year(s). Students reported that this sequence of funding supports successful transition into the doctoral program, development of academic and professional competencies during the middles years, and successful doctoral completion during the final year.

Faculty-student relationships are important in socializing minority doctoral students into their disciplines and professions. Faculty advisors and mentors are especially important in developing students' academic competencies as well as in preparing them for their professions. In addition, faculty-student relationships characterized by faculty availability, approachability, interest in developing students' academic and professional competence, and support and encouragement are important, perhaps especially so in the absence of mentoring by faculty of color. Peer to peer interactions primarily offer academic combined with social support. Further, interactions and group dynamics among minority students and their transition into PWI doctoral programs seem to be affected by their undergraduate educational backgrounds.


Doctoral students, Financial aid, Peer to Peer interactions, STEM programs, Student - Faculty interactions, Underrepresented minority students


2, x, 169 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 164-169).


Copyright 2010 Margaret Nkirote Mwenda