Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Educational Administration


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Del Favero, Marietta

Second Advisor

Cropley, Lorelei

Third Advisor

Bedford, April


While traditional theories are useful in the study of persistence in some nontraditional students, many nontraditional female students are at high risk of not successfully persisting towards their educational goals. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of spirituality, as a validating factor and an intrinsic motivator to persist, in nontraditional female students in community and technical colleges. A hermeneutic phenomenology research design was used with the "lived experiences" of these women articulated through their own voices. Although the study did not have a rigid set of fixed procedures, van Manens (1990) suggested activities for human science research were followed. Individual interviews, as well as two focus group interviews, were conducted to gather the data. A purposeful research sampling approach was used to select the participants from a community college and a technical college in the southern United States. The conceptual framework that informs this study is that of Sharon Daloz Parks' (2000) theories of faith development in the college years. In regards to persistence, Rendon's (2000) model of Academics of the Heart framed the validating environment that nurtured the nontraditional women‟s motivation to persist towards their educational goals. This framework reconnects the intellect with the spirit. In this study, it was found that spirituality was an internal validating factor for these nontraditional female students and this intrinsic motivation supports them in their persistence to achieve their goals. From the study emerged five major themes: spiritual development/growth, challenges, validation, support and perseverance. Supportive environments in educational settings may nurture and affirm this spirituality that exists in the increasing numbers of nontraditional female students attending our colleges today. These findings make a contribution to the present literature in that the results of the study provide insight as to how programs may be modified for nontraditional female students to support them in their persistence in an educational setting. In understanding where the students are on their continuum of developing spirituality, administrators, faculty, and support staff, could better provide the environments that are needed to nurture the growth of this internal validating factor and intrinsic motivator of spirituality.


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